How To Volunteer In Special Needs Sports Programs
Special needs kids often don’t play team (or even individual) sports at school, so they aren’t given the opportunity to get to know people of all abilities over the fun of playing a game. Volunteering to help in special needs sports involves understanding how to include those with differing levels of ability in ways society should but often doesn’t. A vivid example of this is the Special Olympics Unified Sports, which promotes teamwork by playing special needs and non-special needs individuals alongside each other in the same game. Such inclusion removes unjustified “preconceptions” of what it means to have special needs by a bonding love for sports.
Some potential volunteers assume they might not have what it takes or the “forbearance” to work with special needs individuals. Those who move past these concerns find it well worth the effort. Working alongside those with special needs requires kindness, not merely forbearance. Wanting to aid another is a human emotion. Empathy, placing yourself in the other person’s situation, is necessary when interacting with special needs kids who may experience all kinds of behavioral, physical, or emotional disabilities—kids who often find it hard to fit in. The volunteer’s concern goes far beyond “how well would I interact with them?”
Anyone can meet another’s need for friendship, understanding, and compassion. In working with special needs children, attitudes change and circumspection and empathetic responsiveness emerge. Volunteers gain the opportunity for self-growth and a unique insight into the obstacles those with special needs must overcome daily, which in turn grows an understanding of the lasting effects of disability. Sometimes working with special needs spurs the desire to seek a career in special needs education, and volunteering can boost that skill set and solidify commitment. Besides teaching tolerance, volunteering with special needs youth sports just plain ol’ gives such children a great time and a confidence boost through physical activity.
Where to Start
Seeking out local organizations is the best way to start. Volunteers can aid with things like build up and tear down for equipment and events, registration, support staff for participants, getting players and family or friends around the event campus, helping to find willing sponsors, advertising the events, or filling in with administration at the organization’s home office. Who volunteers? Anyone can volunteer but especially people wanting to perform community service like professional business teams, retired individuals, high school and college students, and service groups.
Be the Best Sport loves volunteers! We offer a year-round program that accepts ages 12 and up. It’s great for our special needs athletes because they are given opportunity for social growth, friendship, and teamwork. It’s great for our volunteers because they are shown an aspect of life they might otherwise never have been exposed to. Volunteering with us creates a sense of dependability and accountability. Like Unified Sports, we want to break down the barriers of misconceptions and prejudice and foster tolerance among everyone at all levels of ability. Athletes and volunteers come together, play together, and cheer each other on as we all work together on being the best sport.
Importance of Our Volunteers
At Be The Best Sport, we value our volunteers and they play a vital role in the success of our programs and mission to help the athletes gain new skills and increase their physical capabilities. Our athletes have smiles on their faces each week when their volunteer shows up to class and they look forward to spending time with them each week.
What Our Volunteers Gain By Helping
Volunteers will develop and build valuable skills for understanding and working with children with special needs in an athletic and recreational setting that will prepare them for future employment at either Be The Best Sport or another similar facility. Volunteers will also develop a sense of who they are as part of their community and in the larger world around them. Many of our former volunteers have changed their majors in college or even career path and are now working with children with special needs because of the experience they had volunteering at our program(s).
New candidates applying to volunteer with Be The Best Sport will be required to attend at least one initial training session, three refresher sessions, and at least 10 hours of on the field community service. The initial training session will introduce all aspects of the program and what is expected of them as a volunteer so that they can help fulfill the mission. Initial trainings will present an in-depth overview of the different types of physical and/or and mental disabilities that may be associated with a child with special needs and how they differ from each other. This will give new volunteers insight into the way children with special needs function and how each disability has its own set of unique characteristics.
Each hour-long refresher session will focus on scenarios of specific situations that can occur during program and appropriate solutions for addressing them. This will provide our volunteers with an opportunity to ask questions and discuss any challenges encountered during class time as well as the necessary tools to effectively and appropriately problem solve if a difficult situation were to occur in future weeks. Although Be The Best Sport volunteers are required to attend three refresher sessions during the year, those wishing to eventually seek employment with Be The Best Sport as a Program Assistant, will be required to attend a minimum of four or more refresher sessions per year.
Once a volunteer is enrolled in the program, they will receive a t-shirt and binder with information detailing requirements and expectations of being a Be The Best Sport Certified Sport Coach Volunteer and the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire that will allow us to have a better idea of their strengths, weaknesses, areas of interests, and goals. Volunteers will also receive a certificate of completion that acknowledges completion of the required number of training sessions as well as required community service hours. Volunteers will also be required to complete a self-assessment that will be reviewed and discussed with our lead instructor.
1. Sport Coach – Work 1-on-1 with one of our athletes at any of our various programs throughout the week.
2. Events – We host various events throughout the year and are always looking for help preparing for the days festivities.
3. Fundraising – Want to help us raise money for our cause? We have a variety of ways to get involved and help us raise funds to provide more opportunities and scholarships to our athletes.
If you would like to volunteer for one of our many opportunities, please fill out the form below and one of our team members will get back to you!