The Vancouver Street Soccer League (VSSL) is more than just a soccer program, it is a way to engage with and provide a safe and fun environment for people who are homeless, at risk of being homeless or facing adversity. In a recent conversation with Charles MacGregor, founder and coach of the North Shore Salvation Army Shields team, within the VSSL, he explained the importance of providing a space for this community to talk, listen and support each other. What the league offers – an inclusive, fair play, non-competitive game of soccer, followed by a meal with teammates – provides just that. It is clear after speaking to those involved in the league, that it is indeed not the soccer, but the sense of belonging, dignity and hope instilled in participants that is central to the success of the league and the importance of this program aimed at often the most marginalized individuals in our society.
Bridging the Gap
While emergency and outreach services exist in the community to meet the essential needs of the homeless or at risk, the Vancouver Street Soccer League helps bridge the gap between those in need of support and the local service providers. Through the participation of volunteers from various sectors of the homeless outreach community, players have the ability to seek out guidance and appropriate resources. VSSL also provides a unique setting to engage with youth, often considered a high risk sector of the community, as they face the risk of what is often referred to as “aging out” of the system and loss of support services. By welcoming youth into the program through the Covenant House team, VSSL has the opportunity to help these individuals bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood through fellow player mentoring and access to support systems.
Fun, Food and Friends
At a recent presentation, Director, Dominique Falls, outlined “The Three F’s”, integral to the Vancouver Street Soccer League. First of all, the league strives to provide a fun environment to relieve players, at least temporarily, of any troubles they may be facing in day-to-day life. In this relaxed environment, players learn to trust each other, build support networks, and most importantly develop long lasting friendships, such that they may have never experienced before.
Food, the final and vital component of “The Three F’s”, is provided to players at every game and practice. As Falls, creator of the first ever women’s program, rightly notes, “You can’t ask someone to run 10 km and not provide them with food after. You can’t ask someone to come and play in a soccer tournament all day and not provide them with breakfast and lunch and dinner. “ While some meals are provided by local partnering organizations, the league is always in need of additional food or in kind donations. Falls emphasized that currently the majority of donations received by VSSL go towards food for players.
2014 Canadian Street Soccer Games
Championed by Charles MacGregor, North Vancouver will be host to the first ever Canadian Street Soccer Games from May 29-31, 2014, bringing teams from as far as Toronto and Northern BC to the North Shore. As it can be very costly to send players to the partnering Homeless World Cup each year, the Canadian games will provide players with a similar experience but on a much smaller scale.
Already generously supported by several local organizations including North Shore Salvation Army, North Shore Alliance Church and Mickey McDougall Community Recreation Centre, the league is just in need of two more player lunch sponsors. Either prepared meals or monetary donations are welcome!
Anyone interested in providing meals for or making in kind donations to the tournament or the Vancouver Street Soccer League throughout the year should contact North Shore Salvation Army Shields coach and 2014 Canadian Street Soccer Games programmer, Charles MacGregor at 604-679-1506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Vancouver Street Soccer League: