CREATING OPPORTUNITIES: South Services Gunners president Shanon Tough with staff and members of the MyLife programs a division of Caringa Enterprises.
CREATING OPPORTUNITIES: South Services Gunners president Shanon Tough with staff and members of the MyLife programs a division of Caringa Enterprises. Matthew Elkerton

Gunners tearing down barriers to support brighter future

SOCCER: South Services Gunners president Shanon Tough believes soccer is an all-inclusive sport.

And with the support of Special Olympics NSW, Tough is tearing down barriers in the local region to ensure it stays that way.

The local football club will be running a special soccer development program for people living with an intellectual disability in the Clarence Valley.

The program will be run as weekly hour-long training sessions for a 15-week program period.

Training sessions will be held on Wednesdays starting from May 4 at Rushforth Park, South Grafton between 4pm-5pm under the guidance of coaches from the soccer club.

Special Olympics NSW will be providing ongoing training and support to the coaching team.

"The plan is to have a program solely for people living with intellectual disabilities to give them a chance to enjoy sport and develop their confidence," Tough said. "With the hope they can progress further to get selected in the NSW team and then the Australian representative team with the Special Olympics. "It is trying to get them the confidence as well as the skills - not just the confidence to continue with the Special Olympics side of things, but also into the mainstream side of the sport."

Tough believed the program was the first of its kind in the Clarence Valley and would be a first step towards integration for the participants.

Assistant Sports Development Manager for Special Olympics Australia NSW/ACT Andrew Sadleir said the program provided a wide range of benefits. "Each participant will receive quality coaching in a program designed to keep participants fit, active and healthy. It's not a one-off program, it is weekly throughout the season.

"We find through our programs that the athletes enjoy the social side of things and this program will offer that too".

Tough said anyone who joined with the program would become a Gunner themselves.

"We have a few players living with a disability in our teams but this program opens up the opportunity to those who might have liked to have played but never thought they could," he said.

"If you join the program you are part of the club and we will welcome you with open arms."

The program cost is $40 for the season which kicks off on May 2.



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