COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. ― U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, today launched the Paralympic Sport Club Development Program, a new initiative designed to support grassroots organizations that are committed to providing sustainable Paralympic sports programming that strengthens the athlete pipeline to the U.S. Paralympic Team. Paralympic Sport Clubs that participate in the three-level program will receive recognition and awards designed to help organizations honor achievements and further pursue excellence within the Paralympic Movement.
“Our Paralympic Sport Clubs, which operate sport programming everyday around the country, are an important part of the Paralympic Movement in the United States,” said Charlie Huebner, USOC Chief of Paralympics. “Our clubs are significant in providing opportunities for persons with physical disabilities and visual impairments. With the Paralympic Sport Club Development Program, we hope our partners will be further motivated to help us achieve our mission to provide sustainable sports programming that can help the U.S. Paralympic Team be No. 1 in the world.”
Paralympic Sport Clubs are community based sport programs developed to involve youth and adults with physical disabilities and visual impairments in sports and physical activity, regardless of skill level. Clubs are recognized by the USOC but are operated by independent groups including nonprofits, park and recreation departments, rehabilitation hospitals and colleges and universities.
The Paralympic Sport Club Development program is a progressive program that has bronze, silver and gold levels, which organizations can meet by achieving various benchmarks in four areas: athlete development and performance; coach development and education; programming success; and business and organizational success. Clubs that achieve the levels of the program will be eligible for recognition and awards.
Recommended benchmarks that Paralympic Sport Clubs meet in order to help facilitate the forward progression of the Paralympic Movement in the U.S. include:
With the program heavily focused on Paralympic sport opportunities, ongoing Paralympic sport programming is encouraged as a benchmark for every level, with an increase in hours for each level. Sport lesson planning and providing competition opportunities are also benchmarks that can be met in the bronze, silver and gold levels with different required hours differentiating the achievement levels.
Clubs can progress from bronze to silver to gold within any time frame. However, Paralympic Sport Clubs must have its level recertified every two years to ensure that the organization is maintaining the standard to be recognized.
Participation is open to all Paralympic Sport Clubs but the deadline for applications is Nov. 15 each year. Active clubs can download the Paralympic Sport Club Development Program packets with the information and supplemental materials needed to participate in the program through the community section of USParalympics.org. All participating clubs must start at the bronze level and then move to the silver and gold levels.
Clubs that do not participate in the Paralympic Sport Club Development Program can maintain their status as a Paralympic Sport Club without the designation of any level. Included in the criteria for an organization to receive the distinction of being a Paralympic Sport Club, the organization must conduct existing or new programs in one or more Paralympic sports for athletes with physical and visual disabilities a minimum of 40 days per calendar year, among other responsibilities.
The Paralympic Sport Club program launched in Nov. 2007. Through partnerships with community based organizations, the initial launch encompassed approximately 20 key markets throughout the country, followed by a nationwide rollout. At the close of 2012, the USOC recognized 183 active Paralympic Sport Clubs in 46 states and Washington D.C.
Organizations interested in becoming a Paralympic Sport Club can view eligibility requirements and download an application by clicking here.
For more information, please contact Jamie Blanchard, U.S. Paralympics, at 719-866-2068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.