There are few news stories that draw everyone in our family to the TV, but when this one came on all three of us dropped what we were doing and listened.
Last week, Sadie Gates and her Mom went to a Vancouver soccer practise, because..well...Sadie wanted to join soccer. She'd already played floor hockey, taken swimming, hip hop and bowling, and wanted to try something new. She went through the drills, kicked the ball around, and Mom decided to sign her up.
That's when the coach took Mom aside and told her.
Sadie could come to practises and wear her uniform, but on game days she would be "a liability".
Liability: one that acts as a disadvantage (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Why would he say that? Couldn't Sadie kick the ball?
Of course she could.
How about run around?
No problem there.
Sadie has Down's Syndrome.
Now...this team isn't competitive. It's not serious soccer here, it's just a community team that supposedly everyone is supposed to be able join. That is, unless you have a visible disability. I wonder-what if Sadie had one arm? Maybe if she was deaf? Would she still be a liability? How about if her disability was invisible, such as ADHD, Aspergers, Dyspraxia, Epilepsy, or learning disabilities?
Liability there too? Or is that limited only to the kids where it's visible?
The ironic thing is that my own son, who has a motor coordination disorder, probably would have made the team-and Sadie kicks the ball better then he does. His disability is invisible.
According to the vice-president of youth soccer with the B.C. Soccer Association, Les Sinnott claims that,
"There is room in our organization for everyone to play,"
Right. I guess this coach didn't get the memo. Obviously this is not based on her ability to play soccer and instead this ignorant coach took one look and all he saw was DIS ability. Maybe he just didn't want to deal with her. Maybe he's only focused on winning. What he missed though, by denying Sadie a spot on that team, was a real valuable experience for the other kids on that team. He was given a golden opportunity to teach them about acceptance, teamwork, and supporting each other. I'm willing to bet that Sadie would have even taught him a thing or two as well. Instead he stupidly let it slip away and only reminded an 11 year old and her Mom that people don't always accept kids like her.
Some of the most profound, magical moments in my profession have been when kids who I had thought would never be able to do something had not only achieved that goal but soared with their peers. They have taught me life lessons about never giving up, always doing my best, and never judging someone based on how they look.
You just have to give them the opportunity to try.
Send support to Sadie and her Mom (who in true Momma Bear fashion didn't accept this and instead started her own soccer team-YAY!) at email@example.com After all, Moms who are this courageous to stand up and advocate publicly for their kids really advocate for ALL our kids. Thanks, Abbe.
Photo by ctd 2005