Levelling the Playing field

By Vincent Man, The Daily Press
Posted March 28, 2011

The local sports scene is about to expand.

The Cochrane District Accessible Sport Council officially launched on Saturday with plans of providing people with various physical disabilities the opportunity to participate in sports.

The intention over time is to level the playing field.

“For the hopes of the athletes, they want to live their lives like anyone else,” said CDASB representative Tanya Mageau. “They want the exact same experience. They want to push themselves. They want to learn new things. They want to be able to have their families be proud of them because they’ve accomplished something you and I are able to accomplish.”

As part of the launch, the CDASB held free demonstrations for sledge hockey and boccia at the Whitney Arena. It also received a $2,500 startup grant from ParaSport Ontario. The money will help build the new organization from the ground up as it faces many challenges locally.

“Part of the $2,500 startup fund for the Accessible Sport Council will be used to, hopefully, help gain exposure to what we’re lacking,” Mageau said. “We’re limited to which arenas we could use today, but we’re fortunate that the Whitney is the most accessible one.

“We’re also looking at using some of the money to facilitate more training for the coaches. It’s more of an educational thing as well.”

On hand to get in a sledge and go for a spin was Emily Frye. The 17-year-old lacks the use of her legs and gets around in a wheelchair.

Since moving to Timmins from Chicago seven years ago, Frye has been wishing for accessible sports to form.

“It was kind of hard. I’ve always wanted to be on a sports team,” she said.

“I think it will be pretty cool. I’ll get to meet new friends and have something to do because there’s not much for me to do in Timmins.

“I’m really excited to actually play on the ice and have fun.”

Though the idea behind the CDASB is to give the physically challenged sporting opportunities, the activities it will create in the area will be inclusive.
People of all abilities will be encouraged to participate.

“What’s great about parasports is that, up to the provincial level, anybody can compete in them, even if they’re able-bodied,” said ParaSport Ontario program co-ordinator Lauren Dickler. “It allows siblings to compete with their siblings, who might be physically disabled. What we found was that when children are physically disabled, they’re less likely to participate in sports because they’re scared, but if they have a brother or sister with them, they’re more likely to.”

The CDASB will take aim at creating a sledge hockey team to take on those from Sudbury and North Bay. Mageau, who is also a recreational therapist for the Children’s Treatment Centre, said over the years she has often fielded requests to start the sport in Timmins and even attended sledge hockey camps in Sarnia and London.

“When I brought the information back and we started asking the families themselves, ‘What is your goal? What would you like to see? How would you like to change it?’ this repeatedly came up: ‘I’ve tried sledge at a camp, but it was down south. Can we have something like that brought up North,'” she said.

Of course, a number of other sports are in the works. Possibilities include variations of basketball, tennis, rugby, equestrian, nordic skiing, alpine skiing
and volleyball.

In her time with ParaSport Ontario, Dickler has seen a number of communities benefit greatly from creating similar accessible sport councils.

“On a smaller scale, it boosts self-esteem,” she said. “People who never thought they could shoot a basketball or shoot a hockey puck are now suddenly able to do that. On a more macro scale, economically it makes the community more attractive to things like the Ontario ParaSport Winter Games or Summer Games, which brings 500 athletes into the community and hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community in a given year. It even allows them to host international events if they have facilities that are accessible.”

Article ID# 3046992

Reproduced from http://www.timminspress.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3046992