Team sports are taking over the field of soft practices

The affair, for a long time, was heard. To get back to sport late in the day, or simply to talk without hurting your body too much, you didn’t have to look very far: focus on gentle disciplines, from Nordic walking to water aerobics, including yoga or all the sports. variants of indoor fitness. Sometimes group exercises, of course, but individual practices, always.

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This movement, accelerated by the multiple campaigns on “healthy sport”, the collective disciplines do not intend to let it pass. Even if the approach is not obvious at the start, because competition is not the alpha and omega of the practice; and that it is a question of addressing an audience of seniors, rather neglected until then.

Finally offer offers to seniors

Take football, for example. The story was played out at the end of 2017, in the Orne. On the side of Alençon more exactly, where Yannick Rouault then takes care of the football section at the Sports and Gymnastics Federation of Labor (FSGT). He has just discovered “walking football” in England, a football by walking which appeals to the over-50s across the Channel, with more than 1,000 clubs across the country. Prohibited from running, dribbling on obviously smaller grounds, in teams of five, trying to keep the ball as much as possible on the ground, the game seems ideal to this sixty-year-old who manages to organize a first meeting in June 2018.

“Other poles developed at the same time at the FSGT, in particular in Marseille and in Brittany, says Yannick Rouault. The advantage is that walking football also makes it possible to easily integrate disabled people and to develop co-education. In my club, out of about thirty members, there are five women. It’s very friendly, fun, it is aimed at people who have never played like former footballers who could no longer express themselves in a club. It remains to promote the discipline, to see the numbers swell. “

The FSGT does with its means, which are obviously not those of the French Football Federation (FFF). The latter has finally turned to this football while walking, which she looked down on when she first started out. “We realized that while we were very dynamic in our offers for people under 18, we were far behind seniors compared to other European countries., recognizes Patrick Pion, deputy national technical director of the FFF. We therefore offer several practices such as golf football (in which we replace the golf ball with a ball, editor’s note) and football while walking, which are a priority for us. We are going to distribute educational materials, train educators, because there are still only about a hundred clubs. “

Skills to look for

A certain enthusiasm, but still limited compared to the potential: this is the conviction of Chrystel Bernou, this time at the French Volleyball Federation, with the “soft volley” that she has been promoting for four years. A volley that this technical framework went to seek in Japan where the practice is paradoxically very oriented towards competition. For France, with this volleyball in teams of four, on a smaller field, a net only 2 m high, and a larger and softer ball, Chrystel Bernou wants to address seniors first. “Because, like the other federations, we still have a shortage of offers for the over 40s”.

As often, to adopt a gentle practice, you just have to test it. “Soft volley”, like certain adapted basketball formulas, is gaining supporters. “In the clubs where it takes, it takes very hard with very quickly dozens of participants”, says Chrystel Bernou. Which also raises limits. “Everything happens at the same time in the clubs: leisure sport, health sport, parasport, etc. It’s complicated to find niches in gyms to bring all these activities to life, with competent people to lead them. “

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Attracting more seniors can however be a means of integrating into clubs a population capable of becoming involved as volunteers, or even as leaders. This is an issue that Patrick Pion takes into account at the FFF: “There is a reserve of skills there that we can use to found the club of tomorrow: a club really open to the whole family, where everyone can contribute to make a place of total life. “


Touch rugby, contactless rugby

Seniors are not necessarily the priority audience of the National Touch Rugby Federation, born in 2001 by importing this rugby of Australian origin which is played without veneer and without scrum. Because this avoidance game, of which the premier category is mixed, remains very demanding for its practitioners (2,000 in around 70 clubs). Nevertheless: in a context where the bad contacts of the traditional XV have more and more tendency to frighten, “We also have quadras and fifties in our clubs who can thus keep in contact with the oval”, underlines Thibault Zettel, federal responsible for development, who does not however speak of “soft practice”. The latter regrets the lack of exchanges with the French Rugby Federation, which is focused on a fairly similar variant, V-rugby, a French exception.



In the wake of the Games, France faces the challenge of accessibility to para-sports

Elie Patrigeon, the director general of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee (CPESF), returned from the Tokyo Games all smiles. With 54 podiums, including 11 gold medals, the goal of reaching 35 medals has been greatly exceeded. But he measures with lucidity the work that awaits France to guarantee access to para-sports practice throughout the territory. “Overall, our regional analyzes show us that this access remains difficult, in particular for people with severe disabilities”, he notes.

Multiple brakes

The media exposure of the Paralympic Games does not generate ” inevitably an influx into the clubs », He regrets. ” The facts are there: the chain which leads to the practice of sport is longer and more complex than for the able-bodied. “Not all clubs are able to accommodate these licensees, while few supervisors have received appropriate training.

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In addition to these obstacles, there is the problem of equipment and the taking into account of logistics and transport issues which discourage some managers: ” All this contributes to the exclusion of people with disabilities, who do not all know that they can play sports. “, Advances the leader.

To remedy this, since 2019, the French Paralympic and Sports Committee has appointed a Paralympic referent in all regions to promote the development of parasportive practice. For its part, a “para-welcoming club” project invites volunteer clubs to think about setting up an organization that “ bring mixed and different practices to life within the same establishment “, for ” go find actors with whom we worked little until now “.

More and more initiatives

This policy is starting to bear fruit. Some federations, such as the FFJ (French Judo Federation), are mobilizing themselves without sparing their efforts. Associations and local communities too. Within the framework of the “ENMS X club” project, clubs have, for example, joined forces with medico-social establishments, in order to diversify the sports disciplines open to the beneficiaries of these structures. Launched in December 2020, this project has resulted in more than 80 initiatives in France, particularly in Île-de-France or in Hauts-de-France. In the same spirit, the Departmental Handisport Committee of Finistère offers a wide range of outdoor sports.

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Other regions have developed very different “decompartmentalization” strategies. Thus, in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, the regional disabled sports committee has set up a platform for loaning materials and equipment, often extremely expensive such as the wheelchairs needed to practice certain team sports (basketball, handball or wheelchair rugby) or individual (athletics, racket sports). Finally, set up in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, the DAHLIR (Human support system towards integrated and regular leisure activities), is “ an associative device, a little outside the sports movement, which aims to network all the players in the chain “. For Elie Patrigeon, “ the story has only just begun, but we have the wind in our sails “.