Fun Fitness Volunteers Keeping Athletes Physically Fit!
Clinical Directors Angela Anderson and Sarah Hall are no strangers to working with athletes, with and without intellectual disabilities. Both are physiotherapists who recognize the importance of volunteering not only their time, but their skills and expertise, to help our athletes reach their full potential.
Typically in Manitoba, a lot of athletes aren't accessing private services and school programs are overwhelmed, which makes the healthy athletes program particularly important.
“Healthy Athletes - Fun Fitness provides an important service for our Special Olympics athletes,” says Sarah. “And even though it may be a brief connection, we get to connect with these athletes who may not get the attention otherwise. Sometimes coaches are the only positive influences in their life, so it’s nice to be another point of positivity for them.”
For some athletes, volunteers like Angela and Sarah at a Fun Fitness event are their only point of contact to check in on how they're moving, how tight muscles may be, and what their risk for injury might be.
So What is Fun Fitness?
Fun Fitness is a discipline of the Healthy Athletes program that provides a variety of tests to gauge where an athlete is at physically to better prepare them for sport. Tests include: Balance (single leg balance and stand & reach test), Strength (upper, lower, and core), Physical Endurance (2 mins marching on the spot), and Flexibility (range of motion in the upper and lower body).
When a clinical director notices they may be weaker in one area, they can provide targeted exercises and stretches to improve that area of fitness for them. Not only does it provide the athlete the ability to perform better in sport, but it also reduces the risk of injury, and can help overall in their day to day life.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to meet the athletes outside of watching them play their sports. Also, I love the challenge of trying to find those fine-tuning skills for each individual athlete, “says Angela. “It’s also really nice to connect with the coaches and help them provide better skills and sport opportunities for our athletes help teams get closer to their goals. Plus I love Sarah and working with her.”
It's not always just the athletes who find the program valuable, either.
"Coaches are so open and receptive to it, and many times, the coaches themselves get resources for their athletes/teams they may not otherwise get, to implement in their practices. Proper stretches, injury prevention tips and exercises, etc.," says Sarah. "There are long lasting benefits, that last a lot longer than just the 45 mins they may take going through the stations."
For both Sarah and Angela, their favourite moments from these events go far beyond providing physical supports. Both expressed that the positive interaction with Special Olympics athletes is what makes it worth coming back time and again. From seeing how excited an athlete gets when their grip strength has improved since the last event, teammates who are amped up and focused on beating each others scores on one of the tests, or catching up with athletes they've seen before, all of these moments makes it a fun and worthwhile experience.
Thank you to you both for all of your hard work and dedication to help enrich the lives of our athletes! We couldn't provide these opportunities without wonderful volunteers like you.
Healthy Athletes - a World-Wide Special Olympics Program
Around the world there is a mistaken belief that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same or better health care than others; they typically receive sub-standard care or virtually no health care at all. Many of our athletes lack the necessary support to access the health care services available to them in the Province. The Healthy Athletes program can be a valuable link for individuals with an intellectual disability to the health care system.
For our Special Olympics athletes, improving an athlete’s health will have a direct and positive impact on their ability to train and compete in their sport; in addition to improving their overall quality of life.
For individuals with an intellectual disability in the community, providing access to the program to individuals not currently registered with Special Olympics can encourage future participation in an active, healthy lifestyle.
For Special Olympics Manitoba, working jointly with other community groups and service providers to better support a healthy, active lifestyle for individuals with an intellectual disability.
For more information on Healthy Athletes, head to our programs page.