It wasn’t long ago when James Stitchman would watch his adult son play soccer.
But thanks to a new walking soccer program on Vancouver’s North Shore, Brendan Stitchman is now watching his dad play.
“I had the chance to come watch him and it was quite touching to be here,” said Brendan Stitchman. “I think it’s fantastic to see he’s still got it, still got the moves.”
James is one of roughly 25 adults turning up for the session at the North Shore Girls Indoor Facility on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m the only player on the field today I think who ended up with about 11 yellow cards or warnings for running,” joked James.
Walk, don’t run
Organized by the North Shore Girls Soccer Club (NSGSC), the pilot program offers a non-contact version of the sport, where players are not allowed to run and must keep the ball below knee height at all times.
The NSGSC says they’ve heard from around 30 seniors who have expressed interest in the program.
The Early Edition8:14Senior walking soccer program launches in North Vancouver
“We researched a need for a seniors program on the North Shore mostly because we saw grandparents on our sidelines every week and we knew that they loved to watch their granddaughters play soccer,” said Jana Madill, executive director of the NSGSC.
“We also knew they had a love for the game. And so we wanted to find something inclusive for them.”
According to the NSGSC, playing walking soccer can bring numerous benefits — from reducing blood pressure and blood sugar levels, to improving people’s mental health through socializing.
“We really just hope that we can allow our senior community to be able to come into this indoor facility, it’s air-conditioned, and provide them with a space not only to help improve their physical and technical components of soccer, but also to improve their mental health,” said Meghan Douglas, digital marketer and events coordinator for the NSGSC.
“I thought walking soccer … sounds like a good transition from playing regular soccer,” said Linda Sullivan, a player who came out for the program after learning about it online.
“[I’m] a little worried about those 60-year-olds who are going to be a lot faster than me because I’m almost 73.”
A new way for seniors to keep active
While some players are joining in to try something new, Brendan Stitchman says he is happy his dad can play at all.
“About two years ago my dad was in the hospital with COVID and was not looking good, [he] was hooked up on oxygen,” said Brendan. “Just to see my dad out here breaking a sweat and having fun, it’s amazing.”
“Things haven’t always gone well but they’ve always ended well, for the most part,” said James Stitchman. “I’m blessed with the family that I have and the friends that I have.”
The walking soccer pilot program will run sessions every Wednesday afternoon at the North Shore Girls Indoor Facility until June 21.
If this pilot is successful, the NSGSC says it will look to expand the program for the fall and winter seasons.