By Michelle Allenberg, Tribune Staff
Special needs students really got their kicks.
Port Colborne High School on Tuesday hosted its first ever special needs soccer tournament.
The fun games were a chance for students from different schools in Niagara to meet one another and get active.
“It was just kind of an event where it was like let’s try it,” said Erin Bokma, organizer and gym teacher at Port High.
During winter students participate in a variety of sports tournaments, including for basketball and volleyball. Bokma said she wanted the students to enjoy a summer activity and thought what better way than soccer.
“Soccer is easy. It’s easy for the special needs kids and the rules you can modify easily. You can use all different ball sizes, you can have as many helpers on the field as you need. All around it is an easy kind of thing for the kids to grasp,” Bokma said.
When organizing the tournament Bokma said she sent out an e-mail to other District School Board of Niagara schools to see if anyone would be interested. Bokma ended up having a good response with 10 high schools from Port Colborne, Thorold, Fort Erie and St. Catharines interested. There were about 200 students taking turns playing in Tuesday’s tournament.
Valerie Taylor, program leader for Schools to Community at St. Catharines Collegiate said she thought the idea was great. She said the event gave students the chance to make new friends at other schools and catch up with friends they already have.
Encouraging healthy living was also a selling point for the tournament.
Taylor said having students active and out in the sun getting some Vitamin D is great.
“It’s good for anybody … They are pretty excited to be here. They like the opportunity to be outside and a lot of them have friends in other schools, so they enjoy it,” Taylor said.
Port Colborne High School student Grant Flagg, 17, said he enjoyed playing soccer and hanging out with his friends. He said he normally doesn’t play soccer, but because he runs track he found soccer easy.
Bokma said the importance of the tournament was to get he students out and having fun. Special needs or not, she said it’s imperative to get youth active.
Bokma said the tournament was a success and hopes the school will continue running it in the future.