Homeless street soccer team offers an avenue for change

Nov 01, 2013

Daniel was one of the very first players to join the Kelowna Kodiaks homeless street soccer team. When he arrived at his first practice, he was suffering from severe addiction and as a result battled mental health issues that made him aggressive and unstable. However after only one game, Daniel was inspired to show up to the next one sober.

Today, three years later, Daniel is clean. His issues with mental health have substantially improved. And his doctor believes that participation in the Kodiaks street soccer team is a significant contributing factor to his change of behaviour and improved peace of mind.

“Daniel” is just one special story of many, representative of how the Kelowna Kodiaks homeless street soccer team uses sport to inspire positive change in the community.

Street soccer instigates a global movement through sport

Homeless street soccer is a worldwide, grassroots movement that uses sport as an action for social change. It is a community of local soccer programs around the world who have come together to offer free coaching and participation to members of homeless and marginalized populations, with the opportunity to qualify for theHomeless World Cup – an international championship that has seen over 70 nations and 250,000 players participate. Through a combination of regular practices and games at a local level, along with the opportunity to compete in an international competition representing Team Canada, this street soccer program creates a stable environment that supports inclusion and promotes personal empowerment for all players.

The game is played under the same rules as regular soccer with a few minor variations. Street soccer is a co-ed sport with equality for men and women on the pitch and the games are typically played in an indoor arena (three-a-side, plus a goalie). The Kelowna Kodiaks compete against other teams in the Vancouver Street Soccer Leagueand players have the chance each year to try out for Street Soccer Canada to represent their country in the Homeless World Cup.

Tom and Tiffany Maxwell and Inn From the Cold Kelowna inspire change for Kelowna’s homeless community

When Tom and Tiffany Maxwell moved to Kelowna, they were no strangers to the worldwide street soccer movement. Originally from Australia, it didn’t take them long to notice the number of homeless residents living in the downtown core and immediately recognized theopportunity to inspire change in the same way they knew it was happening in other parts of the world.Kelowna Kodiaks logo

After organizing meetings with local shelters, the city of Kelowna and the Regional District, Tom had the foundation in place he needed to start organizing the city’s first homeless soccer team. Starting with Kelowna’s Gospel Mission and working his way through the other local shelters, Tom and Tiffany quickly had enough players to start practicing. As a result, the Kelowna Kodiaks were born.

Over the next three years, Tom and Tiffany, founders and volunteer coaches for the Kelowna Kodiaks, formed partnerships with Inn from the Cold Kelowna, Big White Ski Resort, Soccer Express, Wendy’s and other various organizations to help with cash donations, food, in-kind donations and discounts to help get the team enough equipment and resources to keep playing and competing.

Local Sport Development Program grant to help support the Kodiaks

This Fall, in partnership with the Inn from the Cold Kelowna, the Kodiaks are one of 16 organizations that have been selected to receive up to $2,000 through the Local Sport Program  Development (LSPD) Fund. Provided through the Province of BC and administered by viaSport, the LSPD grant makes community sport more accessible to people of all abilities by providing monetary support to sport programs initiated by municipalities, sport organizations and Aboriginal communities.

The Kelowna Kodiaks are an incredible example of how accessibility and inclusion in sport can create positive change in a citizen’s life. This team has made a direct impact on the homeless community in Kelowna and all others involved, including the two volunteers who assist Tom and Tiffany in running this annual program. For the Maxwells, the Kodiaks are not only a soccer team, but an extension of their family. Their dog, Kodiak, is even named after this very special team.

“We believe everyone has the right to play sport, regardless of where they sleep, eat, or whether their issues are much more obvious than yours or mine,” says Tom.  “The Kodiaks have instilled a sense of belonging and community spirit in our players, and they understand that hard work and team play is what makes everyone stronger.”

For further questions about the Kelowna Kodiaks please contact Tom Maxwell at kelownastreetsoccer@gmail.com

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