I was fortunate to spend time last week around a group of innovative and passionate individuals representing a network of over 150 million people – a network who has united to act upon the simple realization that as humans we are all designed to move but unfortunately physical inactivity has become the global norm.
This is a greater issue than you might initially think. Technology and other modern conveniences enable us to move less, making physical activity optional. Participation in sports and physically active play has never been more crucial than it is today. Youth are not experiencing the benefits that sport and play can bring. As a direct result, a whole host of emotional and physical health disorders have never been more prevalent, especially for our population of people with intellectual disabilities.
No one can solve the epidemic of physical inactivity alone. In acknowledgement of this, just six months ago, more than 70 experts from over 30 ‘champion’ organizations helped release Designed to Move in an effort to confront this issue, among them Special Olympics. The effort has been spearheaded by Nike, one of the most innovative global companies, whose mission is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world, and in so doing has helped rally global experts to share their insights to this critical issue.
Spending time with these various experts last week, it was evident that this is more than just another research report that our movement is involved in. It’s a catalyst and call-to-action for us all to unite around the power of sport and physical activity to change the lives of the next generation. We know the transformational power that sport has for people with intellectual disabilities to reach their greatest potential. As we work towards our mission of providing year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with I.D., this Designed to Move framework helps support that our work is important and truly urgent, not just “nice”. The most vulnerable depend on our work, and we must awaken global communities to provide universal access to sport and physical activity. We can work together to unlock opportunities to reach the I.D. population by building a truly unified next generation whose misconceptions about people with I.D. become shattered and instead breed acceptance and inclusion.
Designed to Move has a singular vision: future generations running, jumping and kicking to reach their greatest potential. This is true in our own movement’s vision, as we want to see a world in which people with I.D. lead healthy, vibrant lives grounded in ongoing sports and physical activity, sound nutrition, and a commitment to demonstrate their personal best to themselves and their community.
The framework for the Designed to Move vision encompasses two simple asks: 1. Create early, positive experiences for children and 2. Integrate physical activity into everyday life. There is an incredible opportunity for Special Olympics to help lead the way in these asks through the tremendous work we are committed to through such initiatives as Special Olympics Unified Sports, Young Athletes and Healthy Athletes and Healthy Communities – all of which can set-off a multiplier effect that can in-turn build a truly unified and inclusive next generation.
As sport and physical activity becomes recognized as a crucial element for people to reach their greatest potential, building a unified generation of people with and without intellectual disabilities coming together for a truly inclusive society through the power of sport, what seemed impossible to one generation will seem inevitable to the next. We contributed to shaping this Designed to Move framework and I believe that we can all commit to making it a reality through the great work we are doing worldwide to ultimately enhance our athletes’ experiences.
I would also like to thank Dr. Steve Corbin, Janelle Nanavati and Mandy Murphy, who have been instrumental early champions of this report. Special Olympics was a major contributor to Designed to Move which highlights the importance of our work, including a featured case study on Unified Sports. Our movement is committed to the basic action principles contained within this report, and so I encourage all of you to check out this video and read the full report at www.designedtomove.org.
I am excited to hear what you are doing through the power of Special Olympics to help future generations play and participate in sport to reach their full potential.