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On July 1, 4,000 athletes and coaches from across the country will arrive in Seattle to compete in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. Microsoft is proud to be the presenting sponsor of these games. It will be a special week for all of us – the athletes, the city of Seattle and our region, including Microsoft’s employees. As the honorary chairman of this year’s USA Games, I’m delighted to welcome athletes from near and far who are coming not just to compete, but to celebrate their well-earned achievements.
What began as a backyard summer camp in the 1960s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of former President John F. Kennedy, Special Olympics has grown into the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. Shriver recognized how sports brought communities together, encouraged teamwork, built social skills and instilled confidence. She also believed that everyone, no matter their ability, deserved an opportunity to grow, learn and experience joy through sports.
Fifty years after the first games, the Special Olympics boasts more than 5.7 million athletes in 172 countries and more than 1 million volunteers around the world. And while the organization has played a transformative role in the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities, it also became a global movement of acceptance and inclusion. Through sports, health, school and youth engagement, the organization brings people around the world together, with and without intellectual disabilities, to teach tolerance, unity and respect.
For Microsoft, it’s an honor to sponsor this year’s milestone event that celebrates diversity and inclusion in a way no other organization has. “Diversity and inclusion” is a key component to how we understand and work toward our mission every day: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. That’s why we’ve partnered with Special Olympics since 2014, using cloud-based data management to transform how the games are run and how athletes are cared for, while supporting the group’s efforts to build a more inclusive global community.
This year, athletes challenge Seattle to “Rise with Us” and make the 2018 games the most inclusive Special Olympics to date. Already, the games are well on that path with 39 percent of competitors participating in Unified Sports (teams of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities), youth-led leadership initiatives, thousands of volunteer opportunities, and the special events designed for the broader community to participate. And this summer’s games will be one of the largest sporting events ever to come to our city, with an expected 50,000 spectators.
As the Pacific Northwest prepares for the arrival of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, state and local leaders, businesses, organizations and individuals have an important role to play in creating a region that welcomes everyone. This summer’s games are about much more than sports. They’re about creating a city of inclusion where everyone is welcome and can contribute their talents and skills.
One of the best ways you can show the world this spirit of inclusion is to support the games. Attend the opening ceremonies, to be held on July 1 at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium. Cheer on athletes who will be competing in 14 sports at events across the region. Volunteer for one of the 10,000 positions needed to make these games a success.
This summer’s games offer the opportunity for each of us to ask important questions, challenge our biases, learn together and act collectively to create more inclusive communities. In other words, this year’s USA Games will require each and every one of us to rise to the occasion and show the world what the Special Olympics – and Seattle – stand for.
Tags: 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, Brad Smith, inclusion, Special Olympics
Back on the field, helping players and coaches buy into the sports science system relies on the team’s sports scientists being able to quickly show them data, through Power BI’s visualization options. They can easily compare different days, and show progress or declines in very specific areas.
“The information needs to be digestible to players and coaches, so they can depend on it,” Ramsden says. “We want the player to be able to look at the Power BI visualization and then change it to go, yeah, but what had happened when this happened to me?,” adds Riddle. “You know, we want them to have that experience, and we’re really close to that now, so it’s a pretty exciting time. Our partnership with Microsoft has allowed us to build this really solid foundation so that we can make this leap to a new generation of athletes who are deeply connected to their own performance every single day.”
Another thing that helps the staff wrap their heads around the benefits of the program is its five elements: STEMS, which stands for Sleep and recovery, Thinking, Eating, Moving (movements) and Sensing (vision training). Understanding that every single person on the team doesn’t want to get better at every one of those things, the sports science staff is able to tailor their program to individual players and what they want to get better at doing.
One of the program’s believers is Shead. When the “Most Outstanding Defensive Back” from Portland State University joined the Seahawks in 2012, he fell right into the team mindset.
“This team has a championship mindset. This team treats every single game as a championship game. Every game matters,” he says. “You trust in the preparation, the time we put into studying, working out, what we put into our bodies. The key is to stay consistent. By the time we get to game day, we’ve done so much.”
Even though he hasn’t been on the field with his teammates this season, he’s put the same effort into his recovery as if he’s out there with them.
“Every day, I find the positive,” says Shead, who began playing football in the sixth grade for the Palmdale Tigers with his older brothers, in southern California. “I see my teammates play and practice, and I want to get back out there. I feel like I’m going to come back better.”
Shead is a self-proclaimed “science guy” who loves numbers. He loves being able to track his progress. His “baby steps” have included learning to walk again after surgery, to jogging, then running and now, doing sprints.
“In terms of DeShawn, we’ve been able to use an organizational approach instead of one person’s opinion. We’ve collected data throughout his entire rehab, coming back off of his knee injury. We’re able to take that data and compare it to his position mates,” Ramsden says. “We’re also able to compare it to himself. And I think when you have all that, plus, when you can visually see that maybe there’s some kind of little hitch, you have a reason for it. We’re not guessing anymore. We have the professionals in the building to address the concern that you’re seeing, because there’s data to suggest that he may not be able to power off that leg as well as the other leg, for instance.”
Sports science technology gives Shead the ability to see the difference in power between his right and left legs, and between his muscle and hamstring strength. With this information, his trainers can recommend treatment plans, such as more or less reps in specific areas, which help him recover better.
“Having these technologies and putting it into rehabbing has been great for me, because I have something to gauge and to go off of. I love numbers, so when I can see that one is stronger than the other, that means I gotta do a little bit more reps on the other one,” Shead says. “I think this information is a great tool in rehab that helps guide me to get back on the field.”
When he goes up to the sports science department, he goes through a gauntlet of machines that test his hand/eye coordination (it looks like a video game), as well as how high and fast he can jump on each foot.
“The process is a challenge, and I love challenges,” Shead says.