Many sports are beginning to offer adaptive sport programming for people with disabilities. However, the equipment required to offer the adaptive sports and the assistance needed to develop these programs can sometimes create barriers due to cost.
To help address this issue, Sask Sport administers two Adaptive Sport Grants utilizing financial contributions from the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation. The Adaptive Sport Equipment Grant assists in removing the barriers associated with the cost of purchasing specialized adapted equipment, while the Adaptive Sport Club Development Grant is used to provide financial assistance to support new adaptive sport clubs and developmental adaptive sport programming in communities or the expansion of existing sport programs for people with disabilities.
Each sport and program uses these grants differently to provide their members with the best opportunities to participate. Here are three Provincial Sport Organizations that have recently received funding for the Adaptive Sport Grants.
This year, through the Adaptive Sport Equipment Grant, Sask Rowing purchased Adaptive Rowing Machines (AROW), a metal device that attaches to standard rowing machines. The AROW helps address the seating and positioning needs of individuals with physical disabilities, primarily those who use a wheelchair. It can be modified depending on if the individual has some trunk control, no trunk control, limited hand mobility and more.
As for future plans, the grants received in 2022 are going to be used for Para-specific rowing shells, which are wider and shorter than a traditional rowing shell. The shells also have the ability for pontoons to be attached to the side for extra balance.
“This grant allowed us to do that kind of programming and have Para specific coaching at all practices — that was phenomenal,” said Nicole Golden, Executive Director of Sask Rowing. “It allowed us to work with these athletes that typically think that they would never get the opportunity because there’s not enough support.”
In addition to the adaptive equipment, Golden says that coaches within their organization have been able to complete specific training courses for Para rowing. That, along with the funding for adaptive equipment, has also provided Sask Rowing with the opportunity to integrate the training for Para rowers and able-bodied rowers in both the summer and winter months, something that helped to open the eyes of Golden and the organization.
“It was a learning experience for us because we kind of thought you need to have time and training separate and specific to Para athletes — but we were wrong. It is much more enjoyable if they’re training together.”
A more inclusive environment has also helped to stabilize the Para rowing group as more athletes continue with the program, becoming leaders themselves, who assist in the creation of programming.
All of this Golden notes wouldn’t be possible without the grants and the additional support from Sask Sport, specifically that of Adaptive Sport Coordinator Joelle Buckle.
“We’re so grateful for the support and the mentorship— having Joelle Buckle as a guide and someone we can bounce ideas off of, as well as just the support from the broader community has been great.”
Waterski and Wakeboard Saskatchewan
Bronson Lake Water Sports Club, which is located on Peck Lake, has been a beneficiary of the grants, with the organization working on developing adaptive water skiing within their club. Recently, the club played host to the 2022 Saskatchewan Waterski Provincials — for both able-bodied and Para competitions.
Saskatoon did the same in 2021 and Len Thomas, the Executive Director of Waterski and Wakeboard Saskatchewan notes that’s something the organization wants to continue going forward.
“Now, provincials are just provincials. Everybody is there,” said Thomas. “The expectation has been set.”
The facilities at Bronson Lake are not just set up for provincials, but will remain going forward. A full course — designed for High Performance athletes — is paired with a mini course which is used by some of the adaptive athletes. It is set up so the boat towing the wakeboarders and skiers travels the same path for either type of race, but the athlete uses the jumps they need, allowing for seamless integration.
“It’s what it should be, right?,” said Thomas.
The permanent set-up is already making an impact. A cabin owner who is in a wheelchair saw the adaptive team on the lake last year and said, “I’d like to learn how to do that.”
For Thomas, the consistent commitment to improving inclusion across waterski and wakeboard in the province is something that has stood out to him since he joined the organization last year.
“Whenever you’re doing budget planning you should have Equity Diversity Inclusion as part of it. Every budgetary decision should be ‘okay, if we’re going to do this, how does it provide access to everyone?’” said Thomas. “To me, that’s the biggest benefit of this organization is it’s not an afterthought.”
Thomas says that Waterski and Wakeboard Saskatchewan will also be looking at expanding their programming in the deaf and hard of hearing area as well, something that Sask Sport also provides grant funding for.
Utilizing funding from the Adaptive Sport Equipment Grant, Sask Sailing added three Hansa 303 boats to their contingent. The boats are a double-handed, two-sail sailboat that individuals can sit in, which is normally not possible and the boats weigh 68-kilograms with a heavy keel, helping them to remain stable in the water.
“They’re fantastic. The boats themselves, the sails, they can be rolled up when you’re in the boat. So, if the wind picks up, or a participant is feeling uneasy, you can easily pull the sail surface in,” said Angela Cromarty, Executive Director of Sask Sailing.
“They’re pretty universal — able bodied people can use them. It’s very relaxing,” said Cromarty, who compared the boats to a paddleboat. “They’re easy to move. You have two ropes that you hold onto, whereas our other adaptive sail boats are very complex for racing. These boats are going to be more of an introduction to adaptive sailing for adaptive participants.”
Despite the Canada Games pulling adaptive sailing from the 2025 Games, growing Sask Sailing’s program and keeping them at the top nationally is a priority for the organization. The Board of Directors even made it a priority when Cromarty was hired in 2020 and they are hoping that Sail Canada will continue to push adaptive racing so they’re own program can continue to grow as a result.
However, it’s an expensive endeavour and Cromarty notes that achieving Sask Sailing’s goals wouldn’t be possible without the funding received through the equipment grant.
“The boats are so expensive nowadays. The cost involved is increasing — just like everything else. So, for us to be able to offer this type of programming in Saskatchewan — I’ve talked to many other Provincial Sport Organizations [elsewhere in Canada] and they just don’t have the funding,” she said.
And for Cromarty, it’s not just the increase in athlete numbers or where those athletes finish in a race that makes all of her and the organization’s efforts worth it; it’s also the enjoyment individuals get just from being able to participate in the sport.
“You can’t imagine the smiles on their faces when it’s like ‘Oh my goodness, I’m doing this. I’m out on the water with no engine running.’ It’s a pretty incredible thing.”
Sask Sport administers an Adaptive Sport program that is made possible through financial contributions from the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation. The program provides grants supporting club development and equipment purchases. Active and affiliate members of Sask Sport are eligible to apply. In addition, local or community clubs/organizations can apply with the endorsement of an active/affiliate member of Sask Sport. Application deadlines are April 1 and October 1 of each year.