Coach Cassandra Earle high-fives players at Surrey Football Club’s Adapted Soccer program at Newton Athletic Park.

Soccer for everyone

Surrey Football Club launches Adapted Soccer program for kids with developmental disabilities.

During a water break, Gurveer Singh Saggar approaches his father Sarup on the sideline fence on a Newton soccer pitch.

He struggles to get some words out, but his father already has the idea of what’s coming.

“I had a good time,” says Gurveer, 20, a member of the Surrey Football Club (SFC) Adapted Soccer program.

Gurveer has two younger siblings who play U12 and U13 soccer, but Gurveer has autism and ADHD, and has had trouble fitting into recreational sports.

All that changed with Adapted Soccer, which is designed for children with developmental disabilities – complete with camaraderie and supervision by experienced soccer coaches.

For an hour each week, they do warm-ups, drills and pick-up soccer games at Newton Athletic Park’s Turf 2.

“You can tell with his smile he is having a good time,” says his father. “When he is not having a good time, you can tell.”

Photo: Hamza Rana, 11, chases Jovan Bura, 14.

The program is the brainchild of Rob Bura, who was looking to support his 14-year-old son Jovan, who tried his best on the club’s weakest soccer teams.

But he still wasn’t good enough.

“He’d be sitting on the sidelines because he just wasn’t fitting in,” Bura says.

Bura got together with fellow SFC executive Bobby Samra to see what they could come up with.

“There are a lot of kids that need this program,” says Bura, adding that Jovan now considers Newton Athletic Park as his own community.

Jovan not only plays soccer, he volunteers for the club, looking at game schedules and setting up nets and corner flags.

“I feel proud of that because he belongs to a community now. He’s part of the bigger picture,” says Bura.

During the week, Jovan is proud to wear the Pegasus T-shirt at his school, Enver Creek Secondary, because that’s his club, says his dad.

Currently, about 15 kids, mostly teenagers, turn out each Monday evening to practise the game.

“We say (ages) nine to 15, but that’s not reality,” Samra says. “We haven’t turned anybody away.”

The group’s plan is to eventually have enough players to build seven-player teams which can then go up against each other on the field.

The coaches are ready, says Samra.

“We’ve budgeted for uniforms and field times and referees. We’ve got everything ready to go, we just don’t have (enough) kids.”

Photo: Goalie Omid Karami, 10, looks back from the net.

The club has BC Soccer’s permission to organize games by skill level rather than age.

“We want those kids to come out and play soccer,” says Samra.

The first and second eight-week sessions ran last year, and the third one ended March 7.

Running roughly parallel with the school calendar, the next session will begin after spring break.

The SFC’s Adapted Soccer program runs on Mondays from 5-6 p.m. at Newton Athletic Park.

The cost is $40. For more information or to register or volunteer, call the SFC at 604-356-2414.

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