- In view of the multifaceted diversity and a challenge of maintaining a barrier free environment in India, what should be the role of a Coach in preserving Inclusion in Sports?
Amongst the four principles of Inclusion, we can look at Equity and safety. As a Coach you could create the right environment for the Athletes that you are in touch with. It may be a challenging task to help adjust the Athlete, keeping so many different tasks in mind. The important thing is that you work with what you have. Don’t try to create an environment that you assume would work with everyone. That implies adjusting your attitude towards your Coaching. So it is more about focusing on yourself rather than the external factors.
2. With the increase in the number of People With Intellectual Disabilities in workplaces, is there a defined diversity Competency for encouraging & monitoring Attitudes and practices within the workplace. Is Special Olympics working towards this?
Yes. The SO Athlete Leadership Curriculum has just gone through a full revision. Within that we are looking into competencies within a workplace environment and how they apply to Athlete roles. We have earlier focused on roles like ‘Public Speaking’ but in a vacuum. What we are looking into now is how Athlete skills can be developed to help them in a workplace. It looks at emotional Intelligence, Organizational Skills, and Communication skills but from a wider channel, and then goes on to its practical application in a work place.
3. Should the Health of an Athlete come first and then the sport participation. Or the other way round.
Sports is the basis of the entire curriculum of Special Olympics. It looks at transforming lives of Athletes through the medium of sports. But if you need to really have good sports, a life transforming experience, you need to have healthy Athletes. You can’t separate these two aspects from each other. Both must go together to fulfill the mission of Special Olympics.
4. We are talking about Athletes with ID not having access to basic standards of living- safety, good well-being, healthcare, shelter etc. Once those are in place we can have sports as one of the ways to improve further.
In the Covid situation the Athletes may find themselves in a position where most people have forgotten them. We need to first ensure that their health and well- being is fine and then we can finally go back to play. When the sports program opens once again, then the sports is going to add immense value to that. Practices like Preventative health care etc. (like controlling obesity) are going to be so much more important. We know that Covid effects people more who have underlying health issues. Our Athletes are at risk. So it’s better that we build the health platform right from where we can build our sports program, post-crisis.
5. How do we build positive Communication between a Coach and a non- verbal or partially verbal person with Autism?
The Coach has to encourage the Athlete slowly and consistently, perhaps by spending time exclusively with that one Athlete. This could include reaching out and interacting with people he /she is already comfortable with, like his family, friend, Coach, in the presence of the Athlete.
I personally had an experience of engaging with a child of 7-8 yrs , with Autism, who took one entire day to let go of his father and put his foot on the playfield. This is more to understand a Coach’s adaption of his expectations to make an Athlete accepted on the play field. It’s not about delivering a session. It is more about delivering to the needs of an Athlete. The Athlete might need a full day, or two, or even more to enter the play field. But our duty as a Coach is to look into their needs so that they can adapt to the environment. It is challenging but that is the role of the Coach.
6. During Covid controlling the Athletes especially in containment zones does not always work. Are there ways of helping the family members in overcoming this challenge.
There are Special Olympics digital resources available like the fit 5, School of Strength activities, Sprout application, which promote an active life style within the safety of the home. You could approach your local Special Olympics program for more physical activities.
The Special Olympics online resources can be accessed through the link below:
School of Strength