A new parasport program takes equipment — and expertise — on the road to help connect with underserved communities across Nova Scotia.
The Parasport Program Loan Initiative, launched in October, tackles the usual barriers by offering a free and structured introduction over a six-week period.
Applicants can choose one sport from para hockey, wheelchair basketball, goalball, boccia, wheelchair tennis or wheelchair curling.
Municipalities, community sport organizations, and non-profit groups already involved in parasport are all eligible to apply.
There are close to 30 parasport programs in Nova Scotia now, but the majority are centred in the Halifax area, says Zachary Dickson, the parasport coordinator with Sport Nova Scotia.
“The overarching goal is trying to expand the reach of parasports across the province,” he says.
“We’re trying to reduce the equipment barrier, the cost barrier, the training barrier to make it a more accessible program outside of Halifax.”
Wheelchair basketball is a good example of a popular parasport that has a clear cost barrier.
A set of 10 wheelchairs for basketball would require an investment of about $40,000.
Communities can try the sport of their choice with proper new equipment and the benefit of knowledgeable coaches and detailed lesson plans covering the six-week period.
The program brings in the necessary in-person expertise to get the sport started and to train coaches and volunteers.
“If that sport hasn’t existed in a community ever before, there’s probably no one with expertise in that sport in that community who can coach it,” Dickson says.
If there’s notable continuing interest during the six weeks, Sport Nova Scotia will help guide groups through the process of tapping funds and grants, and training coaches, to continue offering the sport.
The initiative is intended to be a quality introduction that could lead to something sustainable.
“The idea there is it’s not just six weeks and done,” Dickson says.
The program obtained two sets of equipment for each sport, so two regions could try the same sport during the same timeframe.
In other words, in each six-week period, there could be 12 programs happening — two in each of the six sports.
At deadline, the initiative was 80 per cent booked for the first trial period, beginning in January. There’s been interest from every region of the province from Yarmouth to Cape Breton.
That’s what it’s all about.
“Everybody I’ve spoken to about it seems to love the idea, and there’s been a significant number of applications and interest from all of those eligible groups,” Dickson says.
For more information on the Parasport Program Loan Initiative, please visit sportnovascotia.ca/funding-programs-and-eligibility.
Image: Wheelchair basketball is one of six sports being offered through the Parasport Program Loan Initiative. (Contributed)