In a challenging time for in-person sport programming, Special Olympics Nigeria did not let that stop them from continuing to train their coaches and provide meaningful opportunities for their athletes.
Thanks to support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), Special Olympics Nigeria successfully delivered a 21-week Special Olympics Unified Sports® program ending April 2021. Athletes and Unified partners participated in self-development programs and sports training twice a week in various communities and centers in the sports of football (soccer) and AirBadminton, the Badminton World Federation’s newly developed Outdoor Badminton Game. While they were faced with a few challenges due to the global pandemic, including the closure of certain sports facilities, they were able to use an open field and kick-off the 21-week program with a Unified Sports coaches training on 11 November 2020 with a total of 51 coaches, certifying 41 new coaches and recertifying 10 others.
Samuel Adekunle participated in the program as an AirBadminton coach. He learned more about coaching Unified Sports and managing relationships with athletes and Unified partners. He also felt he was able to create good relationships with other coaches for support and personal improvement. “I felt fulfilled because I was able to impart the skills I learnt during the coach training session to the participants. I strongly believe that the participant’s badminton skills and fitness level improved during this project, and athletes continue to look forward to the weekly training.” Samuel also said the participants learned how to communicate and socialize with others, had lots of fun and made good friends, demonstrating the true impact of Unified Sports.
Aderibigbe Oluwafemi is an athlete and coach with Special Olympics Nigeria. He took the opportunity to improve his coaching skills as well as participate as an athlete. “The Unified Sports coach training session exposed me to the uniqueness of Unified Sports principles of playing together, no discrimination, friendships both on the field and out of the field of play.” Initially, Aderibigbe was afraid to coach as he thought that maybe participants thought he could not handle it. “The training of other athletes and Unified partners in badminton as a coach gave me the self-confidence I needed. I was initially afraid but I was able to build my confidence. Initially most of the participants thought I could not handle the training but once the sports training commenced, the participants’ level of confidence in me increase through the way I broke down the skills. I learnt many things while participating, such as being brave, self-confident, friendly, tolerant and patient.”
Special Olympics Nigeria’s Unified Sports program touched 192 athletes, 186 Unified partners and 51 coaches over the 21-week duration. Beneficiaries successfully improved their physical fitness, sports skills and participated in self-development programs including a Unified Youth discussion to equip them with life skills and prepare them for the future.