Coaching for a Unified Future

Now in its second year, the Unified Sports® Train The Trainer event aims to equip coaches with a structured pathway to unite athletes with and without disabilities on the same team for regular training and competition opportunities.

A Second Year in Singapore

Special Olympics Unified Sports® certified coaches train athletes and partners, building team spirit through shared training and competition experiences.
Photo Credit: David Goh

“This year’s Unified Sports® Train The Trainer hosted coaches, staff and National Directors from countries which are just starting to offer Unified Sports, including Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam. We also included coaches and new staff from Special Olympics Singapore, to help them better understand the initiative,” says Simon Koh, Operations Director of the Asia Pacific region. “Many of these coaches already have a wealth of experience, some of them with over 20 years of coaching Special Olympics athletes in their respective countries.”

Focusing primarily on football, the three day course gave participants grounding on the goals of Unified Sports®, how it is conducted and how to introduce it to the community. Most importantly, the Coach’s role is to foster social inclusion - unifying two groups of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities, to enable all participants to gain a new appreciation for one another and dispel misperceptions or low expectations about intellectual disability.

From Theory to Practical

Athletes, Partners and Coaches huddling together.
Photo Credit: Kelvin Chooi

The coaches also had the opportunity to put theory into action, working with Special Olympics Singapore’s male and female football teams and partners on the second day. Coaches put athletes through a skills test to assess their ability levels – this gives them the information to division the athletes into teams by their ability. They were then grouped with similar ability partners into teams for a mini tournament.

Partnering to stay Unified

Jong (3rd from left) together with Special Olympics athletes, partners and coaches.
Photo Credit: Kelvin Chooi

The partners, mainly from Singapore tertiary and secondary level mainstream schools, have been playing football with the athletes for the past year, so the team spirit and camaraderie has been established. One Partner, Jong Hyun Cha is a regular at training. Jong's passion for football spurred him to volunteer for Special Olympics, first as part of his student service hours in Singapore American School (SAS). When his student service ended, "I wanted to continue.. I made a club at school, and started gathering new members. We continue to attend trainings and games, making a few friendlies of our own. Our goal as a club, is to create a relationship between Singapore American School (SAS) and Special Olympics. We hope a partnership with SAS and Special Olympics will continue, even after my friends and I graduate."

Coaching for Social Inclusion

Coaches Daniyal (left) and Vijaikumar during a water break.

As for the attending coaches, they were keen to learn and apply this new training back in their countries.  For Special Olympics Pakistan’s Daniyal Alvi, “to be an efficient Unified Sports coach, you need to believe in the message – you need to be motivated to bring these two groups together. You need to know the sport that you are teaching. This training has truly formalized everything – Unified Sports has been in place in Special Olympics Pakistan for the past three years, but not the way I’ve known it here. I am excited to start the program in schools to reap good benefits.”

Special Olympics Singapore’s Vijaikumar Rangabashayam, who has been training the Singapore Football team for the past year, feels “a coach must have a passion for the game and to make a difference, one athlete at a time. This is a wonderful thing happening worldwide and I feel that more Special Olympics countries in the Asia Pacific should come on board to take on Unified Sports.”

“Currently, there are 19 out of 27 Asia Pacific Countries which offer the Unified Sports program. Our aim is to realize the regional goal of all 27 Asia Pacific countries to offer Unified Sports by 2015,” concludes Simon.

For more pictures of the event, visit here 


Photo Credit: Kelvin Chooi

Special Olympics Asia Pacific expresses its appreciation to the following sponsors and volunteers for a successful Unified Sports Train The Trainer event:
Nike, NEWater (PUB), United World College (East Campus), Sport Five, Singapore Red Cross, Special Olympics Singapore, Aznita Amin, David Goh, Kelvin Chooi, Alyssa Chan and Sambit Ghosh.