Results are in and Special Olympics Global Sport Partnerships have increased 35% from the 2019 Sports Partnership Survey to the 2020 survey! Facilitated by the Special Olympics Sport Department, the Sport Partnership Survey calculates the global impact of Sport Partnerships on local and regional levels. The goal of the survey is to understand where Special Olympics stands with national partnerships. Recognizing the national development of these partnerships enables growth across the entire Special Olympics movement by identifying ways to increase the impact for both the partner and the program.
Jon-Paul St. Germain, Senior Director of Unified Sports and Sport Partnerships at Special Olympics International, expressed the importance of tracking the growth of these partnerships.
“The Sport Partnership Survey allows us to see, in real time, the growth and development of sports globally through sport partnerships. This information allows us to understand where and how these partnerships are benefitting athletes and coaches in a variety of ways."
The 2020 survey documented over 1,200 partnerships globally. Each of the seven Special Olympics Regions reported at least 50 partnerships and saw an increase in partnerships from 2018. Europe/Eurasia (SOEE) recorded the highest number of partnerships with 564 in total.
Strength in international sport federation partnerships enables growth and increased program quality at the national level. Desmond Sibiya, Director of Sports Programs and Organizational Development for Special Olympics Africa (SOA), has personally seen the impact of these global partnerships on Special Olympics programming.
“Sport partnerships foster growth and quality in our movement,” Sibiya said. “Both parties benefit, and partnerships create opportunities [for] new learning opportunities.”
In the 2020 survey data, football (soccer) reached 106 partnerships, the most of all sports. Athletics was second with 83 national federation partnerships. Basketball was next with 71 partnerships, followed by 65 for swimming and 52 for table tennis. Such solid commitment across the sport landscape supports the growth of Special Olympics athletic offerings and improves program strength. Maggie Brennan, Manager of Sport Development at Special Olympics International, emphasized how tracking global sport partnership metrics power development. Brennan has seen, firsthand, how the sport of badminton has benefited from this data.
“This information is so valuable for us to have at the global level, as it helps us see the correlation between the development of the sport in a particular program through their partnership with the national badminton federation. Then, we can start to apply best practices and learning opportunities for more programs and partners to follow in these footsteps, using partnerships to grow and strengthen the sport.”
In 2019, the sport of badminton had 44 partnerships between Special Olympics programs and national badminton federations. Special Olympics is committed to providing quality opportunities for badminton players with intellectual disabilities as part of their new sport development movement.
“Partnerships and collaborative working between our National Badminton Federations and National Special Olympics Programmes are essential to the development and growth of inclusive badminton globally,” Senior Development Manager of the Badminton World Federation John Shearer said. “We know that the majority of participation and competition takes place at the local and national level, so any chance for national partnerships to be formed—opportunities for expertise and resources to be shared—is something we are actively promoting and supporting.”
If not for many of these partnerships, some Programs would likely be unable to offer certain sports. The survey identifies sports to pursue partnerships in, providing increased opportunities for our athletes, coaches and officials.
“These partnerships are so important to our overall message of inclusion through sport as an organization,” explained. “It goes beyond supporting sports at a regional and local level. These partnerships show that the international sport family recognize our athletes as athletes."