Marpole Soccer Club’s adaptive soccer program inspires everyone at Vancouver FC
Vancouver Football Club

It doesn’t take much searching to find inspiration on Wednesday nights in the Vancouver community of Marpole. Upwards of 80 children play the good game of football at both J.W. Sexsmith Elementary’s gymnasium or at Oak Park; but, what makes this group inspirational is that they are all a part of Marpole Soccer Club (SC)’s adaptive soccer program.

“This program is a free program for ages four to 18. It’s for kids who have barriers to sport and there’s no official diagnosis needed,” explains Courtney Dixon, Marpole SC’s Operations Manager. “We are projecting probably another 50 kids for this September, so we’re gonna be at 150 kids.”

Marpole SC’s adaptive program was created in 2022 when two mothers reached out to Dixon with the idea of creating an accessible soccer project for children living with disabilities. Dixon took the initiative to heart and quickly implemented the adaptive program that gives children and their families a safe, fun, and accessible outlet to just be themselves.

Callum Irving blowing a dandelion. (David Nava / Vancouver FC)

Vancouver FC is proud to be a part of Marpole SC’s adaptive soccer program by volunteering the time of our staff and players as ‘coaches.’ In return, the VFC team gains lifelong memories and inspiration from the athletes they meet every Wednesday. “It’s the kids that are giving something to the players 100%,” comments Callum Irving, VFC captain and goalkeeper. “If anything, they’re showing me what it means to truly be present, to share moments with friends and to just enjoy yourself and have fun regardless of what you’re doing.”

Kaori Lau and her daughter Avia are one of the families that have benefited from this program. “We started out with indoor [soccer], which was really great because that was a much more enclosed kind of area and, at that time developmentally, I don’t think she was as strong.

Rocco Romeo playing with Avia Lau (David Nava / Vancouver FC)

“But now physically, she’s a lot stronger so she can walk a lot more without help,” says Lau.

This program not only helps the children living with disabilities but also provides the parents with the experience of being a “soccer mom or dad,” that they might not have been able to be otherwise. “I’ve never had an extracurricular activity where I could just leave her with somebody and sit back,” shares Lau. “Honestly, the community is unparalleled. There are so many amazing volunteers.”

Supporting this cause is a privilege for Vancouver FC but it’s especially important to Irving who played with Marpole SC as his youth club. “It is a super special thing to be a part of, I think. The people here at Marple [SC] are so fantastic,” says the goalkeeper. “What they’ve organized here is amazing. I’m glad to play just a small role in it and for them to allow me to be a part of it.”