SportsEvents Magazine

AUG 2015

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August 2015 40 SPORT Report t the Paralympic Games, it'll be significant- ly more than that, and again we know that it will be the largest team that we've ever taken." Another side of U.S. Paralympics, and of Adams directly, is the role of develop- ing additional opportunities for all disabled people to participate in Paralympic sports. " There are 21 million people in this country with a physical disability, and what we're trying to do is make sure they're aware of all of the opportunities that exist within Paralympic sport at all levels, not just the elite level," said Adams. "We're beginning to work also with a lot of large high school districts to educate the coaches about opportunities that exist for young men and women to potentially par- ticipate in a Paralympic sport." The organization's efforts are apparently paying off. Participation in Paralympic Sport Clubs, community-based organiza- tions that provide adaptive sports opportu- nities for athletes at a localized level and partner with U.S. Paralympics, is growing. There are approximately 250 Paralympic Sport Clubs in all 50 states. "The sport clubs are an integral part of our grassroots development and identification of athletes at all levels," said Adams. "Participation numbers for the sports clubs have increased over the last few years. The par- ticipation numbers for us at the elite level have increased as well." Another successful outreach program for U.S. Paralympics is its Gateway to Gold, launched in 2013. It is a nationwide talent identification and development pro- gram that introduces Americans with Paralympic-eligible impairments to suc- cessful Paralympic athletes and educates them about the opportunities that exist in P aralympics. "We do a lot of testing at those events so we can help identify athletes who may have an interest in a particular sport or an aptitude for a particular sport," explained Adams. "Most importantly, we're there to answer questions of parents and friends and supporters. Our greatest challenge lies in educating the country about the fact that we have millions of people with a physical disability who probably are not aware of the opportunities that exist through U.S. Paralympics and Paralympic Sport Clubs." Yet another important U.S. Paralympics outreach program is its Paralympic Military Program. The organization works extensively with the U.S. Department of Defense, the branches of the U.S. military services and military hospitals, according to Adams. "A lot of that is around educa- tion for returning servicemen and women that may have been injured and giving them opportunities to make sport a part of their integration. That's something we're very proud of and a very important part of U.S. Paralympics." Sports Event Planner Perspective Adams stressed not only the myriad of opportunities for disabled athletes in the Paralympic programs but also the excep- tional opportunities for cities and venues around the nation to host adaptive sports events. "We bid out for a bundled track and f ield and cycling Paralympic Trials event, in one city but possibly spread out over it," said Adams of U.S. Paralympics' single biggest event. "We go through an RFP process, evaluate the cities in a process that's nearly identical to what happens for an Olympic site. Adams indicated that in terms of the field of play, there's nothing particularly unique about it for a Paralympic competi- tion. As for other factors, Adams pointed out that his organization makes sure that all of the ancillary areas—warm-up areas, access to fields, all the areas around the playing fields, areas for press conferences, hotels and other sites—have proper accessibility. "The main thing for a host city or venue to have is a really strong understanding of the needs we have regarding accessibility," Adams stressed. "Having medical services in the area, and support services for com- petitors whether they're in a wheelchair or visually impaired or whatever. Travel, for example, is something that sometimes requires certain arrangements. We need vehicles with wheelchair accessibility for hotel shuttles to and from the airport. From a city's perspective we would be looking at making sure they were prepared for that." But while Adams acknowledged the special requirements adaptive sports events may require, he noted that they typically aren't anything more than what everyone needs to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. "I would just encourage cities to work with us and understand the needs we have. Cities that do that have the opportunity to engage with a group they may never have engaged with before. For a city that's look- ing for a large-scale event that it hasn't done before, a Paralympic event is a good alternative." Participation in Paralympic Sport Clubs is creating access for athletes with disabilities to compete.

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