Levelling the playing field: Sport Science instructor calls for more inclusive youth soccer programming in B.C.
By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office
In 2020, the BC Soccer Association (BC Soccer) released an equity policy and loosened its participation policy to allow for gender identity rather than sex to be the determining factor in player registration. Sport Science instructor Dr. Dominique Falls thought this was a big deal when she heard about it, but she wanted soccer communities across the province to take it further by moving away from gender-segregated youth leagues.
Dominique stresses the importance of gender-inclusive athletics programs. This is especially true for youth under 18, who are at a critical time in their development.
“The more kids of all genders play alongside each other, the more likely they’ll respect and understand each other on and off the field. All-genders soccer spaces are productive not only for the development of good players but also to shift gender dynamics in society as a whole, starting with our youth,” says Dominique.
Forming a team on the field
Dominique was curious about how youth soccer programming is currently organized in B.C. This led her to assemble a research team at the College.
The study is split into four phases.
- Gathering information on the gendered youth soccer programming in B.C.
- Surveying parents, coaches, and administrators to gauge beliefs, attitudes, and ideas about gender and soccer.
- Interviewing kids to gauge their beliefs, attitudes, and ideas about gender and soccer.
- Observing all-genders soccer in action to better understand what happens in these spaces .
Dominique and her team have just completed Phase 1 of their study. This first phase focused on gathering information about the gendering of all the youth programming in the province. Now, they’re analyzing the data. Phase 2 will begin this Fall as the soccer season begins, and phases 3 and 4 will begin in 2022.
Ultimately, Dominique hopes her findings will push the soccer community to make changes to embrace more inclusive programs. Among other things, this would involve trans-inclusive leagues and leagues that will include non-binary youth.
“We hope to help community organizations understand the benefits of making more inclusive spaces. Of course, we’re realistic and know that change can be slow and that gender roles and relations are stubborn, especially in sports,” Dominique says.
“But if the outcome of our research makes even a few clubs across the province shift toward offering all-genders programming, we’ll feel like we’ve made a difference,” she concludes.