Why are swimming, basketball and athletics grouped together at the same State Competition, when so many athletes compete in more than one of those sports? And now they will only be able to choose one when it comes to State?
These sports are 3 of the 4 biggest in terms of participation numbers in Minnesota. We have outgrown capacity for all of these sports at State Competitions and are still growing. By having athletes choose which of these sports they would like to participate in at State Competitions, we can manage the competition size better.
Athletes can still participate in any or all of these sports at the Area level, but would need to choose one to advance to State. This will require more planning on the part of delegation leadership to ensure basketball rosters are valid from Area through State for those delegations.
In addition to being able to better manage the size of those sports, the plan is to make that competition a bigger event in terms of atmosphere. We would like to incorporate more things into an event that many athletes and coaches will be at, elevating it to be more of a USA Games feel event. Additional things could include housing being offered at dorms, competition going later into the evening, more special events, bigger Healthy Athletes, etc. We are looking at a lot of things to make Summer Games an even bigger and broader event for everyone in attendance.
Could there have been another option to address the capacity issues at State Competitions?
We looked at several options: different sports being combined, use of other venues (we are already using some of the biggest venues in the state), as well as introducing a quota system used by many other states. The only other viable option was to institute a quota system. Quota systems would limit participation even further by having a mandated reduction in the number of athletes from each delegation to attend State. A quota system would allow delegations to bring a segment of their delegation to a State Competition, but not everyone (ex. A delegation has 4 basketball teams, they would get quota to bring only 1 to State).
Most athletes in the state experience Special Olympics at the Area level. However, State Competition participation is increasing at a very rapid speed (ex. We have 19 more basketball teams at the State Competition this year than last year), therefore, the changes we are making are at the State level at this time.
This plan seems to make more sports seasons conflict with one another.
This plan does put some sports together in the same seasons. The Area Competitions will still be scheduled in a way that will allow athletes to do more than one sport in a season. Athletes could attend Area Competitions for any/all of them. However, at the State Competition, they would have to make a choice.
Would this plan make booking practice facilities harder?
Booking facilities should stay the same or get easier, based on the bigger window to fit them in and the shift in season. For basketball, specifically, starting a little later may make gym space more accessible.
There is a very short turnaround between Fall Games and flag football/bowling with this plan.
At some point during the year, we will need to have one season that is a quick turn-around. The other option would be to combine even more sports into the same seasons.
The summer sports season is so long, what are we supposed to do for such a long practice season?
The summer sports season is the same length for track and field as it always has been because teams won’t begin practice until the weather allows. Basketball and swimming practice season has more flexibility now. Delegations may choose to begin practice in late February rather than January. The Area and Regional competition schedule also has more flexibility because of the longer season.
This means SOMN could add Regional Competitions before and after Area Competitions creating more tournament experiences rather than having delegations just practice more.
We are looking into the possibility of additional opportunities for competition at the Regional level for Unified Basketball as well.
Football is right away in the fall. We don’t have time to practice before Area Competitions.
The season for football was decided based on the fact that many school delegations participate, so we needed to do it when school is in session. However, late fall and early winter can be problematic in Minnesota and delegations need to be able to practice outside. Outdoor practice considerations dictate when the season can be.
We want to add poly hockey now but there is no one in our area that participates. Can we still start this sport?
This plan does not change the option of starting any sport you would like. If no Area Competition exists in your Area, we can work on having you attend a different Area Competition or have you go to State without having an Area qualifier.
How does this help with the growth of the delegation?
Consolidating the sports calendar from 6 seasons to 4 seasons decreases the amount of time spent on HOD/head coach administrative processes. With less time spent on administrative processes, teams have more time to outreach and to take a break in between seasons. We hope the break in the season will help in preventing burnout and improve retention.
How does this help with adding sports?
Before the calendar change, many delegations started practicing for the next sports season before finishing the current sport season’s State Tournament. This structure prevented delegations from adding new sports because they didn’t have time to add it to their delegation’s schedule. Now with four seasons and very limited overlap of seasons, delegations have a break in their schedule where they can plan for and add a new sport. There is a great opportunity for many delegations to try a new winter sport, because State Bowling ends in November and summer sports practices won’t begin until late February.
Are there other sports like bowling that Special Olympics Minnesota is looking to model the format after?
Bowling is the biggest sport in terms of participants across the State. At this time, bowling is the only sport we are changing to a regionalized State Competition format.
Is the rule of athletes cannot compete in more than one sport per State Competition applicable to all State Competitions throughout the year?
It is applicable to all sports except equestrian, bowling and flag football, as the competition set-up and timing for these would not conflict. This rule is subject to change if warranted.
Are all State game sports going to be held in the same venue?
We are working on securing all State Competition facilities and will be doing our best to have venues that accommodate all the sports for that season at one location. That is not always possible with sports that require very special accommodations like equestrian, golf and possibly gymnastics. We will post venues on the web site as soon as they are confirmed.
A delegation has been wanting to start a new sport, but with these changes, they may not have the finances to do so.
We would be happy to talk about potential fundraising opportunities with any delegation. We also have a scholarship fund that can be utilized in some situations to extend the reach of a delegation.
Fall Games is in the start of the school year, during a very busy time.
None of the sports offered during this event season require a venue inside a school. With the State Competition being so large, we would have the opportunity to find venues that are not impeded by needing a school parking lot for extensive
set-up during a time school is in session. These sports have lower participation numbers by school-related delegations.
How will this effect school delegations?
This new competition calendar is a work in progress and the schools team is taking school programs into consideration. School delegations are still eligible to participate at Area and Regional competitions throughout the semester if our State Competition does not work for your school.
Delegations will need more coaches/unified partners due to sport season change.
Recruiting more coaches is something that has been on our radar across the state. We are currently working on a statewide marketing campaign to help increase our volunteer/coach numbers over all of Minnesota.
Do you have resources in your office to help with recruiting coaches, marketing materials, managing our centralized account and budget, etc. to best handle the impact of the changes?
Your Program Manager would be happy to work through the challenges with any delegation and bring in other State Office staff as needed to help transition through this process.
Delegations may need assistance with fundraising or their budget now that all of their sports may occur in one season.
We have a few fundraisers throughout the state that delegations can participate in. Many delegations are now at the point where participating in one or two of those fundraisers fulfills their entire yearly budget. We would be happy to talk to any delegation about how to leverage the Plunge and/or Raffle Tickets sales to help your delegation’s budget, and/or brainstorm some other fundraising strategies.
A longer season will mean more practice time, which would mean more money spent on practice venues.
Your delegation still determines their own practice schedule and can adapt as preferred. For example, delegations may choose to start their practice season later or choose to scrimmage other delegations more.