The Motor Activities with StFX (MAX) program hosted an X-Sledge hockey tournament on March 14 from 2-4pm on the KMC main ice. The MAX program, run through the Department of Human Kinetics, holds a weekly recreational sledge hockey program that allows HKIN students and community members with and without disabilities to participate. The program allows participants to be physically active and improve their fitness while having the opportunity to play a sport they love. Human Kinetics students learn about how to adapt physical activity programming for various disabilities and apply their knowledge in community practice.
The MAX program designs events and activities based on feedback from the individual participants. Last semester, the participants were asked what they want to see happen in the program. The immediate response from the participants was that they would like to hold a competition where family and friends can come watch them play a game with peers without disabilities. Secondly participants stated that they want more than one practice per week with increased access to resources, coaches and training. We are trying to take steps towards these goals and we have had great collaborative support from both StFX and County Recreation, the Antigonish Bulldogs Minor Hockey Association as well as the wider community.
Danielle Pellerine was one of the first participants in the MAX sledge hockey program 12 years ago and is very excited to finally have the opportunity to compete in a tournament. Danielle states “I really enjoy coming to the MAX Sledge Hockey Program every Wednesday. It gives me an opportunity to get some exercise and I love hanging out with my teammates and the StFX Human Kinetic students. You really get to know everyone and they become life-long friends. I am happy we’re able to do this and bring more awareness to our program and the sport in general.”
Indeed, the tournament illustrated that designing an event for various ability levels may be challenging but possible with time and effort. The StFX campus is aiming to move forward with greater accessibility via external funding for the Oland Centre which may be used to support changes to the built environment and make it more inclusive for all users. StFX Recreation has also sought to find ways to adapt programming to accommodate for everyone regardless of ability. Dr. Casey explains that ``people sometimes think accessibility is costly and beneficial for only a small minority. Yet if you design universally then you can actually provide benefits for all users. Human Kinetics students are engaging with the community to see how this works in practice.”
StFX students are also learning an important lesson, especially how to make inclusive physical activity work in practice and overcome the barriers associated with it. StFX X-Woman hockey players have been involved in the MAX sledge hockey program since it started in 2006. Current X-woman players, Emma Winters and Sarah Johnson said that “being able to step up and coach for the program in honour of the alumni on the team is an incredible opportunity as being coaches for the program has been passed down. It is great to be a part of a program that encourages inclusion and we feel privilege to offer the opportunity to participate to all individuals. Through on and off ice training we have seen tremendous progression and endless potential in these athletes. The athletes are given a chance to excel and we constantly see improvements in quality of life and participants working towards future goals."
As a student, volunteer and assistant to the MAX program myself, I am grateful to have the opportunity to directly impact the community. Being a part of the design process and participating in the MAX program allows me to bring evidence into practice and improve the health of vulnerable populations.