Green Mountain Adaptive Sports (GMAS) was recently recognized as an Inclusion Champion by Move United, the national leader in community adaptive sports.
In an effort to promote inclusivity for all, Green Mountain Adaptive Sports (GMAS) is committed to helping build a world where nobody gets left on the sidelines. As we all know, the power of sports is undeniable – benefits not only include social skills development, sportsmanship, and self-confidence, but better physical conditioning and overall well-being too.
Additionally, adaptive sports programs create opportunities for disabled athletes to be active members of the community, and to participate in sports alongside friends, family, and sometimes even strangers.
GMAS presently offers year-round adaptive sports programs through multiple partnerships with local and area partners. We are proud to be able to offer our athletes and their families plenty of opportunities to remain active, supported, and challenged year-round by participating in adaptive ski and ride, movement classes, kayaking, paddleboarding, indoor rock climbing, swimming, and next season, cross country skiing.
All of the GMAS programs are built with the fundamentals of inclusion. Working with local and area sports partners, GMAS is committed to facilitating an increase in inclusive sports programming. We currently provide expert training and other valuable resources to prepare and train coaches to develop the ability to work successfully with athletes with disabilities. This approach builds improved general access to sports programs and creates more positive experiences for both the athletes and the coaches. The next step is to work with our partners to develop programming that will lead to even more inclusion so that youth and adults with disabilities can enjoy sports and recreation along with their friends and family.
Jack Clark has received annual scholarships from GMAS for over a decade and is a perfect example of the power of inclusion. Jack was born with cerebral palsy and skis in a bi-ski. The bi-ski is tethered by an adaptive coach, although Jack controls where he skis independently. When Jack was in school, the GMAS program gave him ample ways for inclusion. For example, Jack was able to join the weekly school program at Stowe Mountain Resort and ski along with his classmates. While he has always embraced skiing, his big smile said it all when he could ski along with his friends. His classmates could also see Jack in a whole new light, recognizing that he could ski with them regardless of his disability.
“Many of our other athletes have enjoyed the benefits of inclusion with family and friends. Developing coaching expertise in programs like those offered by Elevate Movement and The Swimming Hole opens the door for more adaptive athletes to participate in activities as a part of their community. It also helps foster awareness of the abilities these athletes possess,” said Cynthia Needham, GMAS’s Founder and President of the Board.
Another part of that effort is directed at helping all children to have the language and awareness to remove barriers and to encourage lifelong attitudes of empathy and inclusion. To that end, Move United has developed an Inclusive Playbook, a 24-page interactive resource, that can be used in a variety of settings, including schools and communities. The Inclusive Playbook’s goal is to help bridge the gap between individuals with and without disabilities at a young age by inciting conversations, dialogue, and activities. GMAS plans to work with our partners and local school systems to support the use of the Playbook along with an array of resources that accompany it. A copy of the Playbook can be downloaded from https://www.moveunitedsport.org/education/inclusive-playbook/download-the-inclusive-playbook/.
“As we work to build a world where every person, regardless of ability, is included, youth education resources such as the Inclusive Playbook are needed to help challenge common misconceptions and the narrative around disability,” said Move United Executive Director Glenn Merry. “Thank you to GMAS, one of our first chapters to become an Inclusion Champion. GMAS joins others representing a broad intersection of youth, sports and educational organizations, championing the values of inclusion for youth with disabilities.”
*Inclusion matters. Regardless of the community or environment, inclusion benefits us all. Sadly, research shows that children with disabilities are not included at high enough rates in sports and recreation, and when they are, they are often segregated from their peer group. Youth who have disabilities are 4.5 times less active and have obesity rates that are 37% higher than other youth. It’s time we all get to work to bridge those gaps.