Today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders, teachers, coaches and parents. In recent years, particularly in the sports world, we have become increasingly aware of the responsibility we have to our children to provide them with a solid foundation for a healthy life. Evidence informs us that active children are more likely to be active, productive adults, engaged in positive social and health behaviours. The sport industry has listened and taken action. Special Olympics’ partner iCoachKids is leading the way in creating positive youth sport opportunities.
iCoachKids, it is a not-for-profit global coaching movement that was initiated in 2016. The success of the project has been unprecedented and attracted attention and interest from non-EU nations, International Sports Federations and global players in health and industry. The iCoachKids movement was formed to harness the motivation, interest and momentum for the development of a Global Sport System that provides a safe and developmentally appropriate environment for every child.
With its vision to ensure child-centred sport environments provide safe developmental experiences for every child, it immediately became clear that the mission and values of iCoachKids aligned with the strategic goals of Special Olympics. In 2019, at the International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) Global Coaches Conference in Tokyo, Japan, Special Olympics was proud to sign a partnership with iCoachKids.
The annual iCoachKids International Conference has continued to expand this year involving 22 speakers from nine countries across four continents. Global experts like Kris van der Haegen from the Royal Belgian Football Federation; Jill Ellis, former US Women’s National Soccer Team Head Coach and Andy Rogers from Sport New Zealand shared their perspectives and expertise on Youth Sport Dropout and Retention and Talent Development. Dan Waymark from UEFA shared the exciting Playmakers programme developed in partnership with Disney. Kevin Martel from USA hockey spoke about how the US has restructured their youth programmes enhancing the player experience and dramatically improving player retention.
Special Olympics was delighted to join this panel of speakers to share how inclusive, age and developmentally appropriate sport programmes can decrease and even prevent youth sport dropout for children both with AND without intellectual disabilities. Fiona Murray, Director of Coaching and Education, and Jennifer Hansen, Manager of Young Athletes, introduced the audience of over 700 coaches to our youth-specific developmental sports and Unified Sports programme, highlighting the power of inclusive sport to combat youth sport dropout.