Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people. Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities (athletes) discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. The benefits of participation in golf for our athletes are immense – concentration improves, co-ordination improves and it provides a wonderful social outlet for our athletes which is equally important. People with intellectual disabilities (ID) can face many barriers to finding employment and education which is why our sports programme is absolutely vital as it provides them with a lifeline.
Golf is one of our most important sports in Special Olympics with an ever-increasing demand for our golf programme. However we face a number of challenges in sustaining our golf programme which existed even before the onset if the current pandemic which will merely exacerbate the situation. In most cases, unless the athlete has a family member in a golf club or their local Special Olympics club has a coach linked to a golf club or driving range, access to coaching and playing is problematic. In this regard, it is critical that we build partnerships at local, national and international level with the various golf bodies to support our golf programme. In Australia, we already have developed an excellent best practice model with Golf Australia who have an existing MOU with Special Olympics Australia. It highlights the role the national associations can play in providing genuinely inclusive programming through strategically aligned partnerships.
Special Olympics Australia and GA signed an MOU in 2017 with the key to develop a strong partnership at local, state and national level. This is an incredible partnership and it shows what can happen when two organisations with similar objectives come together. As Special Olympics Australia wanted to grow the numbers of people with ID, participating in their golf programme it aligned perfectly with GA’s objective to include more people with disabilities in their programming. Outlined below are the key points of the partnership:
1. Focusing on coaching forms a key part of the partnership with GA undertaking the following:
2. Golf Australia are working with Special Olympics Australia to strengthen competition events through:
3. Golf Australia are committed to complementary pathways that support more Special Olympics Australia golfers reaching their best through:
4. Golf Australia will be one of 6 sport partners for Special Olympics Australia’s soon to be launched “Inclusive Sport In Schools” programme. GA will support the program in the following ways:
The partnership has supported the growth of the Special Olympics golf programme. At the start of the partnership in 2017 Special Olympics Australia counted in total 107 athletes participating in their golf programme with that number growing to 335 in 2019 which is a threefold increase. From a very low base of coaches, Special Olympics Australia can now call on 164 coaches through the PGA All Abilities programme which is a significant increase. This level of available coaches will allow Special Olympics to recruit more people with ID to their golf programming.
Globally we can count 33,974 athletes with 8,040 Unified partners (people without intellectual disability who participate in our Unified sports programme – a fully inclusive sports programme. They are in turn supported by 6,071 volunteer golf coaches. However, we know there is still a lot of work for us to do as we need to increase capacity at local and international level to facilitate more people with ID. We would encourage as many national golf federations to engage with their national Special Olympics programme and look at how they can increase participation levels for people with intellectual disabilities.
Find out more about Golf Australia here.
View our Memorandum of Understanding with Golf Australia here