Halifax student-athlete gets awarded for helping make soccer accessible to all kids

A 21-year-old student-athlete from Dalhousie University has been recognized for his work in trying break down barriers in sports, particularly for new Canadians.

The psychology student and grassroots director of the Halifax City Soccer Club, Luke Berryman has been honoured as a 2023 Volkswagen FC Game Changer, a program that selects eleven soccer leaders across Canada who drive positive change in the sport.

“It really caught me by surprise,” says Berryman about finding out about the recognition. “Volkswagen just sent this box, which was really cool actually – you open the box and it was a screen and there was a person talking. It felt like Harry Potter or something like that!”

Presented by founding partner Volkswagen Canada along with the Canadian Premier League (CPL), Berryman now joins the Game Changers, a group of community soccer leaders in the country who receive a limited edition custom jersey (as a member of the starting eleven) and a donation (courtesy of Volkswagen) to his charity of choice.

“I started an initiative at the YMCA on Gottingen where I go on Fridays after school and do some soccer with the kids,” says Berryman, who started a fund this year for children who can’t afford to play organized sport. “That (donation) is going to go towards that fund to try and cover the cost of registration for those kids.”

Since creating the fund in January, Berryman has been able to register around 100 athletes ranging from ages six to 16 in organized soccer programs through his partnership with Halifax YMCA.

“Most of those athletes are new Canadians or African-Nova Scotians, which is really awesome,” he adds. “I know that there are not a whole lot of opportunities for kids to go and play a sport in a kind of structured way (and) so I thought why not try and bring those kids out to a facility that’s not far from their home.”

While not directly tied into the Halifax City Soccer Club itself, Berryman does use the sports organization to help him run the initiative with borrowed resources and gear on occasion.

While receiving the Game Changers recognition on behalf of the CPL and Volkswagen Canada has certainly been a happy surprise, Berryman says the real reward of his hard work has been seeing the smiles on kids’ faces and the opportunities he’s been able to provide.

“There are some kids who just want to turn up and play once week and to give them that opportunity to have fun is really nice,” he says. “But there are some kids who really care about the sport (and) so being able to see a few of those kids join our top teams and be engaged in our programs has been really rewarding to see.”

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