Children who attend certain specialist schools across Victoria can now participate in a modified version of the Balloon Football League(BFL). The program was developed by Scope’s Community Inclusion team after they facilitated a successful pilot program at Nepean School in 2015. Sport and Recreation Victoria have funded the program for three years which will offer the program to children across Victoria.
Junior BFL has been modelled on the existing BFL competition, which has been played by adults in manual and electric wheelchairs for over 20 years. The game is played five a side on a basketball court, using a large balloon and Auskick goal posts. BFL was invented by three gentlemen with a disability who are supported by Scope.
The Junior BFL fixture runs for six rounds and offers children with complex and multiple disabilities opportunities for skill development, leadership and the chance to play a competitive team sport. Senior BFL players have been employed as coaches and mentors for children participating in Junior BFL. They work alongside Inclusion Project Officers to deliver the program. Students and teachers have enjoyed working with senior BFL players and have reported a number of benefits, including children seeing a person with a disability in a leadership position.
The program encourages participants to build new skills and works with teachers to identify individual goals for each student. This can include learning to understand and follow the rules, safely operating wheelchairs or mobility aids and improving communication skills.
After completing the program schools are invited to compete in an annual Inter School competition. For many students, this is their first chance to participate in a team sport. The first Inter School Competition was held on the 29th March at Sportlink in Vermont South.
20 children from Nepean School and Glenallen took part in the competition. There was plenty of competitive spirit on display as both teams gave it their all, but in the end Glenallen ran away with the win to the joy of a very enthusiastic cheer squad of students and teachers.
Nepean player Indiana enjoys playing in a team, saying “I like to play with my friends”.
Jemima, from Scope’s Community Inclusion team was proud to see Junior BFL commence. “It’s great to see children with disabilities have the opportunity to engage in competitive sport.”
Cam West, one of the original founders of BFL was there on the day as an employed coach for Junior BFL. Cam has mentored the students and has shown them that they have a future in Balloon Football and that anything is possible.
Interschool sport is an important experience that almost every Australian child participates in, and Junior BFL creates an opportunity for children with disabilities to join in the fun.
If you would like more information on BFL, contact Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre on 1300 472 673 or firstname.lastname@example.org