top of page
  • Writer's pictureGrant Vassos

Sports Is For Everyone: The Ottawa Rec Sports Experience

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

November 23, 2018

Joel Leviton created Ottawa Rec Sports after his experience with the Ottawa Sports & Social Club as a student at the University of Ottawa. (Photo: Grant Vassos)

From soccer balls to pub crawls, Joel Leviton runs a recreational league like no other in Ottawa. With nine years under his belt, he is now working to break the stigma between recreational sports and people with disabilities.

Since 2009, the Ottawa native has been the full-time owner and manager of Ottawa Rec Sports — an adult recreational sports league dedicated to sportsmanship, teamwork, and providing a friendly environment to players of all skill levels.

As a student enrolled at the University of Ottawa, Leviton was captain for many of his intramural teams at the Ottawa Sports & Social Club (OSSC) in which he would need to stay “up all night in line to get our placements.”

Leviton and his friends would have to travel to Twin Elms Park — a drive in which he says would take from an hour or an hour and a half to complete.

“There (was) no refs,” Leviton said. “They would give us bike flags to stick in the ground as our nets.”

He decided to create Ottawa Rec Sports after realizing OSSC was the only major sports outlet for adults at the time.

“I just felt like going out of university, trying to pick a path that I could provide something that had a higher level of quality but still focused on recreational players,” Leviton said.

“That was basically my goal from the outset was I'm going to recreate this demographic that the OSSC was targeting which is a little bit less competitive than the competitive leagues, but with actual refs and proper nets.”

While the organization is about “90 percent soccer”, they also hold coed multisport community leagues such as volleyball, dodgeball, handball, kin-ball, basketball, and floor hockey, according to the Ottawa Rec Sports website.

Players are also able to earn money for the sponsor bar depending what score they get on their opponent's sportsmanship card. The friendlier you are during the game, the more money you get for the pub. It's a tradition which Leviton made unique through the addition of beer-can trophies.

“I just sat down with a bunch of friends we drank a pile of beer and we tried to wire them together into some kind of trophy,” Leviton said.

“And after a few iterations, we figured like bust out the heavy duty glue gun you could seal them all together, keep them full, and then people could get a picture with them and then break them off and drink them together.”

Despite their small size, Ottawa Rec Sports has been recognized by LiveWorkPlay co-director Keenan Wellar. LiveWorkPlay is a special needs organization which works to support people with disabilities in Ottawa.

George Kranitis, a former LiveWorkPlay staff, brought Ottawa Rec Sports to the attention of the special needs group after his first week of playing on their recreational soccer league.

“We were just like: 'Oh wow,' because we had tried with varying degrees of successful city leagues which are, they are for everyone,” Wellar said. “The municipality can't say you can't participate in floor hockey. But the attitude of support with welcoming inclusion wasn't always there so It could be a really rough experience.”

Chris Jones was one of the first people with support from LiveWorkPlay to join Ottawa Rec Sports’ soccer league. Once he found a team, a teammate who lived close to Jones offered to drive him home from games every week as support.

It's the type of culture Leviton has worked to instill in his league since he started it. One which can provide people with a safe space to improve their skills and learn how to play.

"We do not care how bad you are. We don't care how many times you screw up. Just go out. Keep swinging. Keep asking questions, and no one is ever going to bitch at you. And if they do they're off the team," Leviton said.

Wellar said the team’s effort to include Jones both on the field and off the field in post-game celebrations is a testament to the identity Ottawa Rec Sports has created in the local community.

“They're not a disability organization. It's a recreational organization. And really this is what everything in our city should be like this,” Wellar said. “This is exactly the attitude we want to see. And the day that everything is like that we won't be needed anymore, we'll just close.”



bottom of page