As we move through 2017, we reflect on a decade which has monumentally changed and molded Special Olympics Minnesota, perhaps unlike any other in our history. While dedication to our core mission of providing training and competition opportunities has not wavered, Special Olympics has become a global agent for social change through programs which promote inclusion, acceptance, and health and wellness.
Here in Minnesota, we have seen a large amount of growth in traditional athlete numbers, increasing over 30%, and have added approximately 50 new traditional delegations and almost 40 school delegations. Area competition participation is up 67% from 2007, and state participation for the same time comes in at just under 50%.
As we all know, we can grow and change and evolve and adapt, but what we can’t change is the availability of time. We don’t get additional weekends, days or hours, and as a result, history suggests every 10 years or so, we as an organization, are forced to look at whether we can continue along the same trajectory, or whether we need to set a different course for the future.
To that end, we began a visioning process in late 2015 which continued through last year. The primary goals around which our discussions focused were:
- Allow athletes continued opportunities to train and compete in the same sports they always have, with a higher emphasis on local training and competition
- Build a calendar that allows for growth
- Develop a calendar with more consistent windows of time, with state events more spread out to allow more time for area competitions
- Eliminate facilities conflicts, if possible, during months of high demand with high school and club sports
- Consolidate state competitions for enhanced visibility, while decreasing expenses for delegations
Our challenge is to try and make decisions that benefit a majority of our 8,000 athletes, a majority of our 3,500 coaches, a majority of our 250 delegations and a majority of our 13 area programs. The following information outlines the sports calendar to which we will shift, beginning with bowling in 2017. Although this represents big changes for all of us, we are excited about the prospects for the future.