Across all of our continental federations, work is continuing at pace to increase the inclusivity of hockey. With Hockey ID a debutant sport at the 2023 Special Olympics in Berlin, some of the shining examples of work being done in this area are rightly hitting the limelight.

At the same time, the Covid pandemic has provoked heightened emotions of isolation, fear and uncertainty among those with intellectual disabilities, so providing social networking opportunities through inclusive activities is more important than ever.

In this article we turn our attention to some of the initiatives that are taking place across the Pan American region, with Hockey ID activities growing in capacity and reach from the north to the south of the continent.

As a continental federation, PAHF has been supporting initiatives creating access to inclusion style hockey practices since 2018 and the results are being seen now.

At the heart of Hockey ID is the aim to offer people with ‘unique extraordinary abilities’ the opportunity to experience the benefits of sport involvement in a safe and stimulating environment. These inclusion style programmes are enabling participants to stretch their physical, emotional, and cognitive capacities in an environment that enriches social development.

Here are some examples of the great work that is being carried out in Hockey ID

Argentina launched its Hockey ID initiative at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. There is now a “las Lionas” and“los Liones” inclusive programme in Buenos Aires, with ambitions to send teams to the 2023 Special Olympics. The initial programme has inspired subsequent groups to form across the provinces.

In Chile,  ‘Hock_in’ inclusive training and events are supported by the Chile Hockey Federation and Special Olympic Chile, while in Barbados there has been a drive to educate coaches in providing specialised training programmes for Hockey ID participants.

Successful, established programmes in Long Island and New York have been joined by programmes in Central Pennsylvania and Washington DC. The focus of the established groups is to develop additional inclusive educational resources to support the growing number of new programmes.

Lastly in Canada, increasing participants’ optimal experiential learning and wellness, coach education, resources and practical experience are being developed as a priority in creating inclusion style programmes.

The value of creating access to explore the benefits our sport and opening up to inclusive communities’ practices, as we have learned from these examples of lived experiences, we enriched ourselves with the social and emotional worlds that the unique children and youth with ‘extraordinary abilities’ are so willing and in need to share.

The next priority for PAHF and its member nations is to develop inclusive Hockey ID programmes in disadvantaged communities in Central America and the Caribbean.

Reflecting on the importance of providing such opportunities, Veronica Planella, a Doctor of Philosophy who specialises in sport psychology and mental performance strategies, said: ‘People with ID face significant societal and structural barriers for inclusion and access to education, health services, employment, and social participation. Unified Hockey and Parahockey are proven inclusive sport practices that provide an attractive activity for people with ID to develop physical literacy and fitness skills, build confidence, improve social skills, promote mental health, and practice leadership.

‘Countries in Central America and the Caribbean are in most need and hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. Inclusive Hockey is an attractive activity to promote positive action and align with initiatives for inclusion and access to health services, education, and social participation.’