Temporary new home2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Onehunga will be the temporary home of the Auckland Special Olympics training programme for the next few months, as Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in their usual venue, the Auckland University Gym, being closed until at least Easter.
Coach, Ellie Long, says that they have not been able to train at all during lockdown last year, and everyone was desperate to start exercising again, especially with the National Games taking place in Hamilton later this year. So rather than continuing to cancel weekly training sessions, the decision was taken to relocate to Onehunga until the gym reopens. Football and athletics are training outdoors at Waikaraka Park, while the Basketball team is using the Jordan Recreation Centre
Ellie says the Special Olympics athletes have found the last two years very difficult. The training sessions are very important to them and they get very excited in the lead up to big competitions. So the multiple, and often sudden, postponements of both training and competitions had been very hard on them.
It’s not just the athletes who were keen to get back into training. Ellie says she was also missing everyone. “They are some of my favourite people in the world and since lockdown started I have been desperate to see them again.”
Ellie says playing sport has benefits for the athletes far beyond general health and fitness. They also develop life skills that can help them at work or home. Every session starts with warm–up drills which are also designed to improve the athletes’ listening skills. They have to learn how to follow instructions and are taught to ask questions when they do not understand. Being part of a team requires them to cooperate with others and improves their social skills.
According to Ellie, winning and losing is also important. Winning gives the athletes a sense of achievement, and learning to deal with the disappointment of losing helps build personal resilience.
The squad has been training at Waikaraka Park every Sunday. For more information on Special Olympics and the ways you can help, visit their website specialolympics.org.nz
The football team training at Waikaraka, with coach Ellie Long in goal for the blue team