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Special Olympics

How are athletes with intellectual disabilities trained?

How are athletes with intellectual disabilities trained?

Athletes who represented India at the 2019 Abu Dhabi Special Olympics (Abhijit Nair/TheBridge)


Abhijit Nair

Published: 13 April 2022 11:58 AM GMT

Coaching is undoubtedly the most thankless job in the world of sports. Getting the athletes to focus on the job at hand and helping them achieve their full potential is no easy thing.

If training normal or able-bodied athletes could be this tough, imagine what working with intellectually-disabled athletes would be like?

"It is not as tough as you imagine it to be. Yes, the first couple of session can be very daunting but once you befriend the person you are going to train and they get comfortable around you then it gets a lot easier," states a coach present during the Special Olympics Bharat's National Health Fest in Ahmedabad last week.

Teaching in a special needs school in Ahmedabad, the middle-aged coach stresses on the need to be flexible while working with people with intellectual disabilities.

"It is important to be flexible with your routines. You cannot go out and impose your techniques or routines. You need to be flexible and train them in a way they enjoy and want to do it themselves the next time," he says.

The coach explains that at times one would have to explain the simplest of rules repeatedly to make them understand the concept of the sport.

"I had a very hard time explaining the concept of passing the ball to your team and trying to snatch the ball from the opponent while I was teaching them football. For a normal athlete, this is a very basic thing but when you are working with people with IDs you need the patience to make them understand these sort of concepts," he chuckles.

He, however, maintains that the major focus is never on winning but on participation and inclusion.

"Winning is always important, but when you are working with people with IDs that focus shifts to just participation. If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt is the motto of Special Olympics and that is something all of us working with special athletes live by."

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