Researchers from Ability Centre and Curtin University partnered with three junior football clubs to conduct research into Starkick, an all abilities Australian Rules football program for children with disabilities. The football clubs required assistance in quantifying the benefits to the children and were looking at ways that they might improve the Starkick program.
Starkick was founded and launched by the Coolbinia Bombers Junior Football Club in 2015, and since then has grown to include three other metropolitan clubs. The ‘Starkick’ program welcomes boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 12 years of all physical and cognitive abilities. The program runs as an integral part of each club’s Auskick Centre, promotes inclusion, equality and opportunity. Starkick caters for children who by circumstance or choice are unable to join in the clubs existing football programs. Children who may need extra support or time to achieve their goals are supported by a team of volunteers. Starkick aims to cater for all disabilities and runs by a simple mantra –“If you want to play we will find a way”.
The Research Team gathered data from 60 children and 20 parents enrolled in the 2017 football season across three metropolitan sites. They measured physical and psychosocial benefits, as well as impact on participation levels in the home, school and community. They also gathered information on consumer satisfaction on the way Starkick was delivered.
The findings showed that children enrolled in Starkick tended to have high levels of self-esteem and enjoyment of physical activities. Most of the children showed improvements in at least one physical aspect assessed. Many children achieved the goals that parents identified for them from participating in the program, including inclusion, improvements in physical condition, interpersonal and social skills, and engagement in sport. Parents expressed high levels of satisfaction with the program and how it was run.
Starkick and the way it was delivered enabled children with disabilities to engage more with their family and community.
Supporting children with disabilities to participate in sports is important because of the health-related benefits. The Starkick program gives children with disabilities suitable support allowing them to derive the physical and important psychosocial benefits from participating and belonging to a team.
Jordan Hitch and Benjamin Kooiman (Curtin University), Dr Sian Williams (Curtin University), Dr Lynn Jensen (Curtin University), Dr Noula Gibson (Ability Centre). This project was funded by Non-Government Centre Support Grant.
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