SOCCER: Surrey FC launches ‘All-Stars’ program

NEWTON — This spring, Surrey FC is launching a new program for kids who don’t have an opportunity to participate in organized soccer.

At the start of April, the club will begin its Surrey FC All-Stars program, for "independent learners with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities that can function well in the team-sport setting."

The program, supported by Special Olympics B.C., will this year have two sevenweek sessions in which children will get one practice and one game every week.

Rob Bura, a director of the Surrey FC club board, is proud this project has started, and is already receiving interest from the community.

He said many people in the community have contacted him in years past looking for a program similar to this, and he’s glad to have all Surrey soccer clubs on board now that the program is ready.

It is an issue that is close to his heart as Jovan, his 13-year-old son, is developmentally disabled and found he didn’t fit in well with house teams.

"These kids don’t feel part of a team," said Bura. "They just don’t have an avenue."

Bura tried to get his son involved in team sports, but found the barriers made it difficult for Jovan. Also, coaches didn’t have the right training to coach a child with a disability.

For this program, Special Olympics B.C. will be training Surrey FC coaches on how to work with kids who are disabled.

"Right now, coaches don’t know how to handle kids with autism or Down syndrome. They have different issues and you see it on the field," Bura said. "It’s not the coach’s fault. They just don’t have the proper training."

The director is looking forward to the program, as he sees it as a chance for these kids to socialize, work with other children and also get some exercise.

Bobby Samra, vice-principal at James Ardiel Elementary, is fully involved with the program and is trying to bring in youth via the school district.

He has seen kids get involved in similar school programs and enjoy themselves by participating in activities with other children.

"When I first heard (about the program), I thought, ‘What a great idea. I’m on board.’ It’s not just the kids with special needs. It’s also able-body kids who just aren’t athletes," Samra said.

Samra, who was named the Vancouver Whitecaps Community MVP in 2013, said he sees a lot of kids who are scared of sports and don’t enjoy gym class. He said this program is perfect for them because wins and losses won’t be recorded.

The program will be housed at one of Newton Athletic Park’s turf fields, with games being seven players a side.

Bura hopes this will get kids more interested in participating in sports and that they can one day compete in the games put on by Special Olympics B.C. To register for the program, either as an athlete or volunteer, phone Surrey FC at 604-356-2414. More information is posted on the Surrey FC website, Surreyyouth.com.

kyle.benning@gmail.com