Member of Parliament Pam Damoff will welcome the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, to Oakville North-Burlington on Friday to visit two local sports clubs and speak to coaches and athletes about the value of sports to a community.
Minister Duncan will visit the Burlington Gymnastics Club, which offers recreational programs and elite-level competitive programs in both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. Minister Duncan will then move to the Oakville Soccer Club, the largest soccer club in North America and largest community sports organization in Canada with more than 12,000 members and over 900 volunteer and professional coaches.
Minister Duncan is committed to ensuring that all sport in Canada is inclusive, free from harassment and discrimination and accessible to everyone who wishes to participate regardless of age, gender, race or ability. As Minister of Sport, she established a working group on gender equity in sport and ensured that federally funded sport organizations must have anti-discrimination, harassment, and abuse policies in place to be eligible for funding.
“It’s a pleasure to be in Oakville North-Burlington with MP Damoff today and to meet all these talented athletes in your community. Not only is sport supporting their strong physical and mental health, but it is bringing this community together and helping to build friendships that will last a lifetime,” said Minister Duncan.
Both the Burlington Gymnastics Club and the Oakville Soccer Club have ingrained policies on inclusion and accessibility for everyone in their organizations, from coaches, trainers and staff to volunteers, athletes and visitors.
The Burlington Gymnastics Club, the sixth largest gymnastics club in Ontario with nearly 3,500 athletes, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and 30 years of hosting the annual Spring Cup. Spring Cup is the largest women’s invitation gymnastics competition in Canada for both rhythmic and artistic gymnastics.
In 2016, the Burlington Gymnastics Club was recognized with the Tourism Ambassador Award and Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring declared the Friday of the annual Spring Cup “Burlington Gymnastics Club Day” in recognition of the significant sport tourism traffic the event brings to Burlington.
In addition to offering elite-level gymnastics training, the club is committed to providing a positive work and training environment and dedicated to supporting personal dignity and self-esteem. Burlington Gymnastics Club continuously works to remove and prevent barriers for athletes and employees and has developed a multi-year accessibility plan designed to improve opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate in sport.
As part of its commitment to inclusivity and fair play, the Oakville Soccer Club developed the Breaking Barriers Program. Designed for participants between the ages of U5-U15 with intellectual and/or physical disabilities, the program is facilitated by OSC’s Active Start certified staff and dedicated volunteers. Breaking Barriers introduces participants to the fundamentals of physical literacy and the sport of soccer. Players enjoy a comfortable and inclusive environment that enables them to learn and engage at their own pace while making new friends.
MP Damoff is committed to supporting healthy living and active lifestyles that are inclusive and accessible to all Canadians which is one of the many reasons she supports both organizations with Canada Summer Jobs federal funding.
“I am pleased to welcome Minister Duncan to my riding of Oakville North-Burlington and have the opportunity to showcase some of the top athletes and sporting organizations in our community as well as the value of the CSJ program to sporting clubs,” said MP Damoff. “Both the Burlington Gymnastics Club and the Oakville Soccer Club are recognized as elite training facilities for some of Canada’s top athletes and the students employed here by the CSJ program are not only gaining valuable work experience and a salary, but also learning the value of sports to the local community. In fact, Oakville and Burlington are home to several Olympians who received their early training right here. “
Susan White, Executive Director of the Burlington Gymnastics Club, says the club is delighted to have been part of the CSJ initiative for the past few years, including this summer. “Our students have a keen understanding of the diversity in our community and bring fresh, exciting and relevant programming and business ideas to the table. We endeavor to provide our students with autonomy to create, present and execute their ideas in a positive atmosphere where physical literacy and inclusiveness are top priorities.”
David Harris, Executive Director of the Oakville Soccer Club, has employed CSJ students for several years and says because of them, the club is able to offer additional programs they would not otherwise be able to run. “We are tremendously grateful to have four students this year through the Canada Summer Jobs program,” said Harris. “There is no question that having these students allows us to provide more
programs for youth in our community. They could not be better employees and if I could, I would hire them all fulltime.”
Mathew Aslett, a Queen’s University student working for a third summer at the Oakville Soccer Club thanks to CSJ funding, has turned his work experience into a research project at the University. Part of his job is to train new referees and help returning referees upgrade their skills. Because CSJ funding has allowed him to work in the same role three years in a row, he was able to note a trend in the referee industry and work to reverse it, something that not only benefits him in his academic and professional pursuits , but is a great asset to the Oakville Soccer Club and the industry in general.
“Because I have worked here for three summers, I was able to notice that retention rates for referees in youth sports was low — about 45 percent,” said Mathew. “I have been able to increase retention rates from 45 to 90 percent in three years by implementing some new initiatives, including a new female mentoring program. When I started, about 70 percent of our referees were male and today it’s an even 50/50 split. Now, many of our female mentors have gone on to train others and it’s become a really enjoyable learning classroom for them both on and off the field.”