By Stefania Allevato
The rich history of the Boys and Girls Club is the backdrop for the the Ron Kolbus Clubhouse located on Dumaurier Avenue in the west end of Ottawa. The Ron Kolbus Clubhouse is where you’ll find Fahmo Aden and Ella Dodge, both 13 year-old girls, participating in the Sens Sports & Leadership League (SSLL).
The SSLL, established in 2014, is a partnership between the Boys and Girls Club and the Ottawa Senators Foundation. It’s a year-round competitive sports program for children and youth ages six to 18 and focuses on skills development, leadership and teaching the importance of responsible and healthy competition while providing a healthy and safe environment for participants to have fun playing sports.
Aden is a six-year veteran of the league and started with the SSLL playing soccer, while Dodge has been participating for four years in soccer, basketball, baseball and ball hockey. Over the years, Aden’s appreciation for sports grew and now she participates in the same sports as Dodge and became a member of the Walk this Way program (a walking program where participants log miles while trekking to landmarks throughout the Ottawa area). Both girls participate in the league for a couple of different reasons.
“I participate because I learn how to play the sports,” says Aden. “I also make friends.” Dodge thinks the skills and teamwork she learns from playing sports will be transferable in the workforce.
The SSLL is Ottawa’s only no-fee, year-round competitive athletic league. What that means is no payment is required to participate and all equipment and transportation to and from games is covered by the program. Transportation is a major barrier to lower income families participating in organized sports. No child is left behind as financial barriers are eliminated while promoting physical and mental wellness. The SSLL provides inclusivity and structured programs. It’s beneficial for families who struggle with registration fees, equipment costs and other associated activity fees.
The Ron Kolbus Clubhouse is one of seven locations in the Ottawa area for the SSLL. The SSLL currently boasts about 900 participants and is the Ottawa Senators Foundation’s first significant investment in social recreation. Approximately one in five youth in the Ottawa area don’t have the means necessary to participate in programs and activities that help them develop confidence and essential life skills.
The SSLL is Ottawa’s only no-fee, year-round competitive athletic league. What that means is no payment is required to participate and all equipment and transportation to and from games is covered by the Ottawa Senators Foundation.
“(The program) gives our members the opportunity to show athletic abilities that they would have otherwise not have had while honing in on their skills,” says Theresa Dolan, Senior Youth Worker at the Ron Kolbus Clubhouse. “I love the fact that they’re mixed—girls and boys. It also breaks down barriers and provides diversity and culture.”
There are up to 12 leagues in the city now. In addition to weekly practices, the participants of the Ron Kolbus Clubhouse play against other Ottawa-area clubhouses weekly. The participants are divided into groups: junior for ages six to 10 (no basketball for the junior group), intermediate 11 to 13 and senior 14 to 18.
The biggest lessons of the league are leadership and fair play, which is messaging that kids buy into. A satisfying part of Dolan’s job is watching the maturity develop in the participants and how they grow into becoming role models.
The Ottawa Senators Foundation is holding its annual telethon on March 9, to continue providing funding for children’s and youth programs across the city. The Foundation relies on generous donations from Sens players, alumni, partners, sponsors and fans to rally around the cause of helping thousands of children and youth across the city.
Tune in to the Ottawa Senators Foundation Telethon powered by Mitel on Friday, March 9 beginning at 6:30pm prior to the Senators game vs the Calgary Flames on TSN 5. To make an contribution, please visit www.sensfoundation.com or call 1-844-8GO-SENS (846-7367).