Ehrlo Sport ventures to make sports accessible to all

0
7414
Two Ehrlo Sport Venture youth football teams playing in Mosaic Stadium.
“Go long, go long! I’m throwing long!” Gloria Patrick

Community sport leagues are there to make sure everyone can be involved 

For youth, sports are an exciting way to make friends and have fun. For parents, getting your child onto a sports team and keeping them there can be a nightmare, especially if your child is just there for the fun. This dilemma is what makes community sports leagues like the ones run by the Ehrlo Sport Venture Program (Sport Venture) so valuable.  

Sport Venture is a community outreach program provided by the non-profit organization Ranch Ehrlo. It offers five recreational sports leagues for youth aged six to 16, and has opportunities for everyone else to get involved. 

Gloria Patrick, the Program Manager for Sport Venture, shared why it is important that youth get the opportunity to get involved with sports. She said, “We know that there’s so many benefits from being involved in sport, and so we want to be able to offer that to all youth.” 

“Sometimes there’s barriers that are in place that limit access to sport, whether that’s a financial barrier, transportation barrier, or equipment and league fees,” Patrick said. At Sport Venture, they have various supports in place to mitigate these barriers. They seem to be working, as Patrick said that they have “statistics from surveys where parents indicated nine out of ten [players] wouldn’t have access to sport or wouldn’t be playing without our program.” 

Their league registration is free, and there are multiple ways to register. Registration for the leagues is open about a month prior to the start of the season, and can be done online, over-the-phone, or in person. Since there are waivers that must be signed by a parent or guardian, it is recommended that players are registered online or in-person.  

However, if a parent or guardian cannot access the internet or register in-person, Patrick said they could register over-the-phone and sign the waiver at the first opportunity, including the first in-person practice. 

Sport Venture leagues get their sports equipment from their “equipment lending library,” primarily stocked by donations. “Our main location on 5th Avenue has an equipment lending library. So, just like you could go to the library to get a book, you can rent out equipment from us for free and anyone can come in and use that service,” said Patrick. 

Patrick said that the equipment lending library is “always accepting donations,” and that donated equipment does not have to be for a specific sport or age group. “We have anything from basketballs and tennis rackets and skates, or cross country skis, […] volleyball knee pads, soccer cleats; things that people might need in order to play.” The equipment is usually borrowed for a period of 30 days, but if the item is used in a seasonal sport, such as hockey, the lending period can be extended. 

Patrick explained the difference in values between professional, or paid leagues, and community leagues, saying, “There’s an ideology, or framework, that talks about sport development versus sport for development. So sport development, […] is really about the sport developing the best athlete. […]  So, we’re on the opposite side, we’re very focused on that sport for development. And so although we do play games, we’ll bring teams together in tournaments, we’re not about winning and losing. Oftentimes, we don’t even keep score. So really, it’s just about equal access to play.” 

Patrick said that Sport Venture focuses on how to use sport as a way to build meaningful relationships with kids, and create a safe space for them to learn and grow their skills using sports. She also described how providing this space can be rewarding for everyone involved, saying, “it’s a really special thing when you can help kids feel good about trying something new, to help build friendships, build their listening and teamwork skills, […] help them build their self efficacy to build their confidence.”  

Sport Venture runs five recreational leagues throughout the year: Baseball, Soccer, Basketball, Football, and Hockey. They recently wrapped up their football season at Mosaic Stadium. “We partnered with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Rider alumni. We’ll have the cheerleaders out, […] and just have a celebration to kick the league off,” said Patrick.  

Now Sport Venture is preparing for the upcoming hockey season. Registration is open now until January 2024. Patrick noted that hockey, in particular, is a sport that presents many barriers to playing because of the costs of equipment. Ehrlo Sport Venture opens hockey registration early so their players can come in and be fitted for their equipment, which comes from the lending library.  

The Outdoor Hockey League (OHL) is offered at eight different locations, totalling sixteen teams. “We have jerseys for all of our teams too, and we get gifted time at the Co-operators [Centre] so we get to play our games indoors. So, every week we’d practice outdoors, but then on Tuesday nights we get to go and play in the Co-operators,” said Patrick. 

The Regina Pats are also involved during the hockey season. “Their CEO is actually one of our coaches, and so every year we’ll have Pats players come out and help out at some of our sessions. We’ve [also] been able to go out and play during an intermission at a Pats game,” Patrick said.  

Sport Venture is a great opportunity for the community to get involved with. Each sports team is assigned a staff ambassador, who coordinates the team with the sport manager, the community, and the volunteers. She said, “We have different tiered volunteers. […] A tier one volunteer would be somebody from the community who doesn’t have an association or affiliation with Sport Venture. So, it might be a student, [… or] it might be a former athlete who wants to give back to the community.” 

Anyone can volunteer with Sport Venture, and Patrick said that the staff do their best to make the volunteer experience easy. “We have a little bit of a volunteer application and process, just to do a bit of screening and due diligence, but we try to make it easy for our volunteers. We come with a program plan, we come with all the equipment, we ensure that we have everything we need to support our volunteers. So really, they just need to show up with a positive attitude, ready to go and interact and build that positive mentorship [with] our youth.” 

The Ehrlo Sport Venture Program does its best to reduce barriers to youth involvement in play and sports, and encourages the community to get involved. This could be donating unused equipment to the lending library, or volunteering with the upcoming hockey teams. Either way, Sport Venture believes that “everyone should have the right to play.” 

Tags66

Comments are closed.