Football first a big success
Mana College hosted a grassroots football programme for children with special needs last week, and organisers hope it will be the first of many.
About 18 students from Mana and Mahinawa Specialist School dribbled through cones and took part in other drills and games as part of the Just Play programme set up by Special Olympics NZ (SNZ) and Oceania Football.
It teaches children aged 8 to 18, who have an intellectual disability, the fun of learning new skills, developing confidence, working in a team and, above all, having fun.
Ten schools in the Wellington region, and 25 across the country, involving more than 100 teachers, have seen the initiative start with a real positive buzz, SNZ football development officer Adam Hayman says. Each school gets kit, balls, bibs, cones and some teacher training, and those that have taken it up have been very enthusiastic.
‘‘This is a great thing for football and for special needs students that Oceania Football have decided to invest in.
‘‘The kids are active, they’re working together and you can see they’re having fun. It’s using football as a tool for social development.’’
Mr Hayman hopes the number of schools involved for the next stage, later this year, triples across New Zealand and by 2013 they have enough to hold regional and national tournaments.
He envisages other sports getting involved in the model that football is putting forward, too.
A former professional footballer in Scotland, Mr Hayman says it is fantastic to have more kids playing the game.
‘‘ With special needs kids it’s very rewarding – they often get pushed to one side, but you put them in an environment like this and they have no reserve. It’s great to be a part of.’’
Football fever: Aroha Taeoalii from Mana College is all concentration as she prepares to shoot for goal.