As of March 2011, 18.4% of Victoria’s residents were classified as living with a disability, a slight drop from 20.0% which was recorded in 2003. However despite this equating to almost 1 in every 5 people, there is still a significant lack of sporting opportunities available for those living with a disability.
There are many different forms of disability, including physical, intellectual, psychiatric, neurological, sensory and learning amongst others, and understanding the importance of creating opportunities for people living with a disability is often left to too few. Attitudes however are changing in various parts across the State, with an increasing amount of opportunities being created. An example of this can be seen in the City of Knox, located 30km South-East of Melbourne, which has in excess of 29,000 people who are classified as living with a disability. This equates to 19% of Knox’s total population of 152,000, just higher than the Victorian average.
In 2010, Knox’s largest soccer club, Knox United Soccer Club, became one of just three Clubs in the South-eastern region to field a Power Wheelchair Soccer side and it has quickly developed into one of the State’s biggest success stories, with the team growing in numbers and looking to field a second team next season. The league, which is jointly run by Football Federation Victoria (FFV) and SCOPE is growing from strength to strength and now has more than 40 participants who take part in games each week. More information about Knox United’s Wheelchair Program can be found by following the link below:
Shifting football codes, another of Knox’s largest sporting Clubs, Ferntree Gully Eagles Junior Football Club, is also providing an opportunity for people with a disability to participate in sport, through their Football Integration Development Association (FIDA) team. Since the idea was proposed back in February 2011, the Eagles have formed strong alliances with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), Eastern Recreation & Leisure Services (ERLS), the State Government through Nick Wakeling MP and the Knox City Council, to ensure the possibility of forming a side quickly grew legs. The possibility of entering a FIDA team has been supported so greatly that the Club now hopes to field a full side within a month’s time, with exhibition matches to be scheduled before the Winter is over. More information about Ferntree Gully Eagles FIDA team can be found by following the link below:
Another example of a region where sporting opportunities for disabled people is on the rise in within the Maroondah City Council, where two more teams are achieving high levels of success both on and off the field. The Maroondah City Council has a population of just under 100,000 residents, with almost 21,000 (just under 22.0%) of those being classified as living with a disability.
Ringwood Spiders Football Club was established in 1992 and the Club quickly tasted success, winning their first Premiership in 1994. The Club however struggled during the late 90’s and early 00’s, before a resurgence in 2005. During the six years since the 2005 season, the Club has grown significantly and now fields two teams, ensuring up to 50 players have the opportunity to play a game once a fortnight. The Spiders are also now one of Australia’s largest and most successful sporting clubs solely devoted to people with a disability. In addition to this, the Club won its second Premiership in 2009. More information on the Spiders can be found by following the link below:
Shifting away from the Winter sports, Croydon Ranges Cricket Club, also based within the Maroondah City Council, are providing an opportunity for people with a disability to participate in the Club’s ‘Play Cricket’ Program. The program, which is run in conjunction with Eastern Recreation & Leisure Services (ERLS), Special Olympics Victoria and Cricket Victoria, consists of training sessions, a Super-6 Tournament and a team being entered in Cricket Victoria’s All Abilities Carnival. More information on Croydon Ranges Cricket Club’s Play Cricket Program can be found by following the link below:
The examples above are just four Sporting Clubs which are aware of the importance and value that a team catering for those living with a disability provides, not just from a physical perspective, but also mentally. One of the hardest obstacles that a person living with a disability has to overcome is the lack of social interaction, a fact which is often overlooked by those lucky enough to live without a disability. Through sport, this social interaction increases dramatically, leading to happier, healthier individuals.