Choose to include. A simple phrase that evoke a not so simple response for some. If you haven’t heard about Special Olympics and their mission about including persons with intellectual disabilities you should certainly look into them. The movement to create inclusive opportunities for all is an important one. Inclusion and sports has been and continues to be a medium to challenge and expand that idea.
I think Floorball can play an important role in that movement in both Special Olympics and Unified Sports programs. Any chance I get to talk Floorball is a chance I’ll certainly take. I’m fortunate to have opportunities to share the sport with others. I think Floorball is a great fit for creating opportunities of inclusion. Floorball is already a recognized sport with Special Olympics and is being played, but not in North America at this time. I’m not alone in this process as others around the country share that same passion for the sport, and are working to get more involvement, especially within the Special Olympics community. There have been demos around the country raising awareness and making sure that all have the opportunity to experience and play this great sport. Floorball by nature is an inclusive sport and can be easily adapted to meet the needs of the players, and is a great way to engage a broader audience.
I have been fortunate enough to have been included in a few events within Special Olympics. Specifically running Floorball demos at winter and summer Olympics for Special Olympics of Washington State. Each event has been a wonderful opportunity to showcase Floorball to Special Olympic athletes. What I really enjoyed was seeing the athletes jump in and learn a new sport and succeed. One of the great components to Floorball is that other than the goalie it needs very little equipment. The adaption of rules and game play make it a fun, fast, inclusive activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle. The other function is that Floorball provides more opportunities for athletes to choose and find sports that they’re passionate about.
This past week Special Olympics USA Games were held in Seattle, WA, and was a marquee event for the region. Thousands of athletes from around the country came to Seattle to compete in a variety of events. While the focus of the event is on the athletes and competition there was another part focused on training and developing youth through a program called youth leadership experience. This program consisted of over 100 students and leaders from around the country. As part of that program I was invited to develop a team building experience for the group.
I have a background in team building and development through my undergraduate program at Western Washington University, and graduate studies at George Williams College of Aurora University. I was more than happy to use that experience to help with this program, and thankful to have my wife and a friend join me to assist in the program. One of the challenges to the experience was the time constraint. Team building takes time and there’s a progression to it for thorough experience. While I did get the time I would have liked I felt the groups were able to take something with them. Through the experience I’m hopeful the participants were able to take something with them throughout the week. I really appreciated that Special Olympics staff for thinking about the importance or team building and making it a priority. Whether it’s a small or large group it’s an important part of development to spend time in this area.
To round out the event the groups were surprised by the Chairman of Special Olympics Dr. Timothy Shriver. I was fortunate to be in the crowd and get to listen to his message to the youth leaders. It was powerful and inspiring. His message while focused on inclusion was inspiring and encouraging the group to be themselves. His message take from the stage production Hamilton “I am not throwing away my shot”. Listening to the students around the room explain their passion and that one thing they strive for was powerful. It spoke to me, and helped encourage me that the path I’m on with Floorball is where I need to be. I’ve developed a deep passion for this sport and I’m working hard to raise awareness, and get more people involved. Sometimes that’s be a challenge and it’s forced me to put myself out there, but in the end I’m pushing forward.
I encourage anyone reading this to get involved with Special Olympics or Unified Sports. I also encourage you to ask yourself the same question. What is your shot? What do you desire to do, accomplish, or become? For me it’s developing the sport of Floorball. Until a few years ago I never knew that’s what mine would be. Be open to possibility and I’m going to continue to push, build, educate, and include.