Special Olympics Wisconsin participated in an exciting Special Olympics pilot program when it debuted its new Performance Station at this year’s State Volleyball Tournament on November 4 in Menomonee Falls.
The program consisted of six stations that aim to prepare athletes for optimal health and athletic performance and to help them make the connection between fitness and performance in sports. SOWI was invited to participate as one of the first states in the pilot program due to its strong health programming already in place. The director of fitness and the manager of fitness for Special Olympics International were on hand to observe the pilot program in action, as was the health programs manager for Special Olympics Minnesota.
“Special Olympics Wisconsin is making health and wellness a priority in our athletes’ lives. The Performance Station not only educates our athletes on health topics such as nutrition and hydration in order to improve their performance on the field or court, but it also promotes year-round wellness at home.” – SOWI Director of Training Brittany Hoegh
Roughly 200 athletes went through the six stations throughout the volleyball tournament. The competition readiness station gave the athletes the opportunity to undergo a competition readiness assessment and get some items that could help their performance during the tournament. The interactive nutrition, hydration and physical activity stations helped educate on food, beverages and exercises that would help improve performance and overall health. The pledge station encouraged athletes to make targeted, specific fitness goals to achieve their desired results while the local opportunities station gave allowed athletes to learn about fitness opportunities in their own areas.
“Special Olympics Wisconsin is making health and wellness a priority in our athletes’ lives. The Performance Station not only educates our athletes on health topics such as nutrition and hydration in order to improve their performance on the field or court, but it also promotes year-round wellness at home,” said Brittany Hoegh, SOWI’s director of training.
One athlete who completed the Performance Station was Leacondra Turner of North Suburban. When she arrived at the pledge sub-station, she pledged a health goal to “eat healthier for a whole year.”
“We are excited to be taking health to a new level at SOWI and we look forward to more Performance Stations in the future.” – Hoegh
The Performance Station also brought a large group of more than 30 volunteers to assist in running the pilot program. Given that this was a new program, it was a great opportunity to utilize mostly new volunteers, most of whom came from a UW-Whitewater class on health promotion.
One new student volunteer from UW-Whitewater who worked the pledge station and who came away moved by the experience was Michelle Vasen. “I think it’s super rewarding being able to talk to the athletes and hear about how their days are going,” Vasen said. “They get super excited. The drive they have for what they do makes it all worthwhile.”
Due to its success at the volleyball tournament and the critically important goal of providing athletes with knowledge and awareness of ways to improve their quality of life beyond sport, the Performance Station will return in 2018 at a regional basketball tournament yet to be determined. There, additional athletes will be able to set health goals for themselves just as 200+ did in Menomonee Falls. “Athletes created a health goal to take home and work toward using the tools they learned at the Performance Station,” Hoegh said. “We are excited to be taking health to a new level at SOWI and we look forward to more Performance Stations in the future.”