Sport for Active Citizenship: Young Athletes Project
The project aimed to unite two- to seven-year-old children with intellectual disabilities and other children in a combined game-based training programme.
Its primary aims were to support motor skills development and remove social barriers experienced at an early age. This objective aimed to provide sustainable opportunities for young people with and without disabilities in order to encourage integration and healthy lifestyles.
Metehan Cengiz is a Young Delegate from Turkey who coordinated an initiative in partnership with METLIFE and Procter & Gamble. This was one of the flagship projects implemented by the Special Olympics Turkey Programme. As project co-ordinator, Mehetan was responsible for organising events and training volunteers, families, coaches and trainers across 18 cities.
The sports development aspirations aimed to create volunteer opportunities for university students and increase their knowledge of special education and the struggles of early childhood. A sustainable system was facilitated by encouraging young athletes to become Special Olympic athletes. Moreover, the project aimed to engage key stakeholders beyond young athletes and students. This involved activating family members as a support network for young athletes, training new or existing coaches, and engaging community partners to support the growth of young athletes.
The principal challenge for Mehetan was to identify the needs of relevant stakeholders. Therefore, the project could only be advanced once he contacted families and schools and understood the country’s regulations. Mehetan had to be mindful of logistical obstacles and the prejudices surrounding disabilities in Turkish society. The project aimed to raise awareness about the importance of sport activities for both the children and the community. University students also had the chance to volunteer and become high-level trainers, academic researchers, and active citizens in their local community.
The project commenced with the young athletes’ ‘8 weeks motor development programme’. Mehetan organised a networking event for new project partners from sixteen sites to collaborate with trainers, volunteers and families. Analysing the impact, Mehetan collected data based on assessment tests and surveys that had evaluated the motor development of both the athletes and the behavioural analysis of staff members. He also expanded the network of relevant stakeholders, oversaw monitoring, and developed written materials including manuals and feedback tools.
Mehetan learned a great deal from the initiative including the importance of networking and creating well-organised structures that could help integrate people with disabilities.
The text is taken from the Sport for Active Citizenship toolkit, the most important outcome of the 2019 Young Delegates meeting in Budapest, Hungary.
The Young Delegates meeting 2019 was supported by the Council of Europe through the European Youth Foundation.