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• Published on 31 Jul. 2015 • Category :Sport • Tags : 2015


Powered by: Alan Kasujja, Presenter, Newsday, BBC, Uganda

Patrick McClenahan, President and CEO, Special Olympics World Games – Los Angeles 2015, United States

Monique Brandon, Executive Director, Kids In Sports, United States

Janet Froetscher, President, Special Olympics, United States

Mike Freitag, Former Professional Soccer Player, Director of Coaching of Colorado Soccer Association, United States

Mike Fox, Sports Tourism Manager, Sport Surrey, Canada

In a world of sporting superstars and global brands, the work behind the scenes of countless organizations to bring sports to local communities can often go unnoticed.

But their role is crucial in bringing sports, and its associated benefits, to the general public.

Each one may look like a drop in the ocean compared to the biggest clubs in the world, but together they make an unquantifiable difference.

“They may only be little things,” declared Mike Freitag, Director of Coaching at Colorado Soccer Association. “But if everybody does these little things then it makes the world a much better place.”

Janet Froetscher, President of the Special Olympics, agreed. In organizing the Special Olympics, she brings together what she calls ‘the most marginalized population on the planet’ from 180 different countries, and she was under no illusion the difference sports can make to people’s lives.

“We believe that a soccer ball or a basketball can save lives and change lives,” Froetscher said.

So how does an organization go about catering for the sporting needs of a local community? Mike Fox, Sports Tourism Manager at Sport Surrey in Canada, said that many of the migrants entering Surry hailed from South East Asia, particularly Pakistan and India.

This change in population make-up meant adapting and altering the sporting facilities in Surrey.

Fox explained: “Instead of traditional things like ice hockey rinks, we now have to look at what the needs of the population are. We have built cricket fields, field hockey pitches, even a Kabaddi field.”

A challenge often facing organizations at a local level is a lack of funding, meaning projects often have to be sustainable.

Patrick McClenahan, President and CEO of the Special Olympics World Games, talked of the need to ensure projects engaged not only participants, but also investors and sponsors – or risk losing their business.

“Engagement is such a big word for me – as CEO, my staff even know me as the Chief Engagement Officer,” he joked. “It’s my responsibility to engage with people to come alongside of us and magnify what we are capable of doing.”

At the other end of the spectrum, there is the need to keep youngsters engaged, argued Monique Brandon, Executive Director at Kids In Sports, but that means finding a role for everyone in society.

“Our concept, our model, does not work if we do not have role models for the children,” she said.

She suggested that adults and the elderly can act as anything from coaches to umpires or referees in local clubs or leagues. “Unless they are involved, it simply does not work,” she concluded.


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