Over the past two months, CANI have been working towards achieving the Foundation Level of The Equality Standard, as defined by The Sports Council Equality Group. This group aims to promote and develop equality in sport across a universal framework based on 4 Equality Standards. (Foundation, Preliminary, Intermediate & Advanced)
In order to attain this 1st Level, CANI need to:-
- Demonstrate a clear commitment to equality.
- Have an up to date policy for equality which complies with current NI legislation, and is communicated to all staff, board and members.
- Have an awareness of our current profile and position in terms of equality.
With these points in mind, much research, discussion and debate has recently been taking place amongst members of CANI Council, members of staff, and a number of coaches and key volunteers. It has been rewarding to hear some of the stories of positive initiatives already being undertaken by many of our member clubs to aim to make Paddlesport more accessible to under-represented sections of Northern Ireland society. Some of their stories may be read below.
Further work will continue to be done to build on this.
C3 – Craigavon Canoe Club
Within our club we have always had a very good cross-community balance.
We have had requests from individuals with a range of disabilities, who wanted to try kayaking to see if it was a sport which would suit them. Recently, these have included a wheelchair user, a partially sighted person, and several people with learning disabilities. In many cases, the main issue is access. Someone from the club would always be available to discuss what an individual’s needs were, and what would be required of them in terms of the sport. This would allow both parties to evaluate what the club could do to enable participation.
For example the wheelchair user who came along recently had an interest in white water kayaking, but with his skill level, it was felt by the coach that this may be difficult, due to his potentially needing to get in and out of the boat frequently, not just where a jetty was available, but also mid-stream, or on a difficult river-bank. This paddler came along to a few pool sessions, and the club made reasonable adjustments by way of providing a 1:1 coach/paddler ratio for him, as compared to the usual ratio of around 1:6. It was suggested that open canoeing may be more accessible for him, and we are hoping that he will come along to explore this avenue.
Without an increase in coaches who have the necessary skills in this area, the club feel unable to create a more organised initiative to attract more disabled paddlers, though would be willing to engage with such a project with support from CANI.
This would then be comparable to the initiative which CANI had supported a couple of years ago, to develop good practice for coaching young people in paddlesport. In this case, the participation and club officer set up and coordinated a series of junior river hub sessions, where the junior members of 3 or 4 clubs all met up together once a month, accompanied by several of the coaches from their own clubs, to develop white water skills. After the first year, the group was cohesive enough, and the coaches skilled and confident enough, for the CANI officer to step back and allow the clubs to carry on from the initial impetus which had been created.
Something similar would be really beneficial to promote paddling for girls, as previously girls have tended to come along to the club for a little while but not necessarily stayed for long. Bringing in female coaches and running special girls sessions would allow a positive counter-balancing of the numbers, with girls’ sessions being integrated into whole-club sessions.
As more coaches are trained in Paddleability, this type of thing could be used to support disabled paddlers, creating a pathway to integrating disabled and able-bodied paddlers over a period of time.
As clubs are run and organised by volunteers, the limitations of finding people within the club to drive these initiatives forward must also be recognised.
LCP – Lisburn City paddlers
Within our club, we have found that going through the Clubmark accreditation process raised awareness of many issues.
We currently have members from several ethnic groups, including a Latvian paddler. At our AGM recently he was asked to be on the committee, to which he agreed. He was duly proposed, seconded and elected, despite his own reservations due to language barriers. However, his English is improving rapidly through his involvement with the club as well as other areas of his life here in NI. His increasing confidence is allowing him to participate fully with all aspects of the club. It is possible therefore that he would be a good link to encourage other members of the Latvian community to engage with the sport.
BKC – Belfast Kayak Club
Again, the process of going through the Clubmark Scheme was very informative, and as a club we worked with a group of young people with Down’s syndrome, though only for a short period.
We have also worked with a young boy with Learning Difficulties over a period of about a year. He has come along to the pool sessions that we run jointly with LCP, and through the consistency of support and coaching that he has received he has made amazing progress. This time last year, he couldn’t even put his head in the water, and now he is trying to roll his kayak. Of all the juniors within the two clubs, he has probably made the most significant improvement of anyone.
Within our club, we have several disabled paddlers, one is an amputee, and there are several partially sighted people. The ex-chairman of the club is working on an initiative to take this group on an extended sea voyage in 2015. They will tour in double sea-kayaks, paddling with able-bodied people.
He has already made a scouting trip recently to plan the route, work out times and tides, and look at the feasibility of making the same trip with the group. He paddled from Portballintrae, on the Causeway Coast, to Port Allen in Scotland – an 8 hour voyage. There are also plans for a group of Able-bodied paddlers to repeat the trip this year (2014) as a group of 4 double sea-kayaks, to better work out the logistics of the voyage. This extended time scale will also give the disabled paddlers more time to improve their personal paddling skills in readiness for their own voyage. The amputee joined the club as a beginner, and is making good progress. The other 3 disabled people who are keen to make the voyage also have quite limited experience. Coaches within the club have been trained in the Paddleability programme, and are keen to support their disabled members.
Foyle Paddlers Canoe Club
We are committed to promoting equality of opportunities within Canoe Sport for everyone, regardless of ability. Our ethos is that ‘Canoeing is for fun, it’s for fitness, and it’s for the family. Canoeing is for all’
Foyle Paddlers Canoe Club commitment to equality of opportunity is enshrined in our constitution, through our Equity Policy Statement –
“The club is committed to ensuring that equity is incorporated across all aspects of its development. In doing so, it acknowledges and adopts the following Sport NI definition of sports equity”
“Sports equity is about fairness in sport, equality of access, recognising inequalities and taking steps to address them. It is about changing the culture and structure of sport to ensure it becomes equally accessible to everyone in society”
We purchased a range of Open Boats and Double Sea kayaks, specifically to enable families and those with mobility issues to participate fully in canoeing.
As a pre-amble to our engagement with minority and disadvantaged groups, our members received awareness training from Autism NI, and awareness training from RNIB. In fact one of our coaches who is a consultant eye surgeon, provided very useful guidance on some practical issues associated with coaching people with reduced vision.
Over the past few years, FPCC have ran some very successful canoeing and kayaking sessions for a variety of minority and disadvantaged groups, including ; RNIB, Autism & Aspergers’s NI, Intervention Programmes (Cross-Community groups during the marching season) and with a group of children from a Care Home environment.
The feedback we received, from these activities, was that these sessions proved very enjoyable for all of the participants, leaders and coaches. Our coaches were enthused by their involvement and spoke of how rewarding the experience was for them as coaches.
We aim to continue to provide canoeing opportunities, subject to funding for improved access, etc.