Valley’s All Abilities Program tees off
By Jack O’Neill
Friday the 6th of November saw the commencement of the Valley’s All Abilities Cricket Blast Program for 2020 that Valley District Cricket Club runs in association with Special Olympics Australia.
Valley’s has made the program is run free of charge to children of all ages who have an intellectual disability. Friday’s launch session saw children aged from 5 – 19 years taking part.
This program gives children of all ages with an intellectual disability the opportunity to participate in cricket whilst making social connections with other children.
A specifically tailored curriculum has been designed to accommodate the children, most of whom have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and their unique needs.
All of the coaches have completed training through the Special Olympics Australian learning platform (SOA Learn) which has given them an understanding of ASD and what they need to consider when coaching and interacting with the children to ensure they have the best possible experience.
The coaching program has been developed by Clinton Kempnich (Valley’s Jnr Director of Coaching) and the activities the children undertake each week have to be carefully developed to ensure, not only the safety of the children, but also the varying degrees of ability across the group.
Each skill has to be easily modified to ensure that both high and low functioning children achieve an element of success.
Once the skills program was drafted, it was reviewed and tweaked following feedback from Kim Lawley from Special Olympics Queensland who has also dedicated many hours to working with Valleys to not only ensure the success of the grassroots program, but to provide guidance on how the participants could achieve ongoing cricket participation into the future via the Special Olympics Cricket pathway.
“Working with Valley DCC on their All Abilities Program has shown how sports clubs can embrace inclusion in sport. The growth in numbers across participants and trained coaches has been inspiring. This is the first All Abilities Program to be run by a cricket club, but we are very hopeful that with the success of the Valley DCC program we can look to taking it out to other Clubs so that they too can experience the joy of inclusion.
The program is also accommodating for self-regulation in case of a triggered reaction from.
“It’s the little things that matter when building a program for children with a disability said. Kaz Willis, Valley DCC game development officer, and mum of a child who has ASD.
“Small details like having equipment that takes into account the nuances of ASD. Many children are very tactile, so we have purchased a range of balls of different sizes and textures.
“Ultimately giving these kids an opportunity to participate in an inclusive and safe environment with coaches that understand their specific needs”, Kaz said was the most important aspect to the entire program. “Seeing the smiles and excitement on the faces of these children is just priceless and makes the hard work getting it to this point, absolutely worth it”, Kaz added.
Charlie is one young boy who is enjoying the program immensely. His dad Adrian said “Charlie is so proud of his batting skills and relished a chance to show them off. Coach Steve showed him how to bowl and he is madly practicing. It is clear that the coaches, the kids and the parents enjoy it as much as each other. A win for all involved.”
Valleys has received incredible support from community sponsors, including The Gap/Ashgrove Lions Club. This support means that the program can continue to be offered free of charge to any family who wishes to participate.
The club’s long-term vision is to create a pathway for these children that sees them participating in grade training sessions, and potentially participating in regular Special Olympics competitions with their peers.
The months of hard work that organisers and sponsors have given to allow this program to be as successful as it is, should not be overlooked. It is a true testament to the club’s commitment and enthusiasm towards safe, fair and inclusive practices through the All Abilities Program.
Anyone interested in joining the program can contact Kaz Willis on 0416 113152.