There are times when sport goes beyond its traditional emphasis upon winning and competition and instead becomes a vehicle for good in so many other ways. Social interaction, mental health, fitness and well-being – these are just some of the add-ons that a great sporting occasion can give us and, at no point does competition and excellence need to step aside. There is room for it all.
And so it was at the Special Olympics in Doetinchem in the Netherlands, where a total of 31 teams took part in a weekend of exciting ParaHockey action. The club hosted two events, running side by side. A clubs tournament that involved 24 teams playing 6-a-side hockey on quarter pitches and a further seven teams contesting the international event playing 7v7 on a half hockey pitch.
All photos courtesy of Rachelle Cornelissen/Special Olympics Nederland
The hockey was fast, furious and action-packed. Passes flew across the pitch and goals were celebrated with ‘high fives’ and huge delight from players and spectators alike. The action was captured on film by Spanish filmmaker Jools Beardon .
The event was the result of collaborative work between the KNHB (the Dutch national hockey association), the EHF and FIH. The event organiser was Natascha Bruers, Sports Director AHOD Team NL SO alongside Elsbeth Ruys, a volunteer from KNHB.
"The growth of hockey for everyone is something that should be a core element of my job"
Tom Pedersen-Smith, European Hockey Federation (EHF)
President of the EHF and FIH Executive Board Member, Marijke Fleuren was on hand to watch the action as it happened. She thanked Natascha Bruers for the way she has showcased ParaHockey ID at the Special Olympics, adding that the event, “has given our vision for ParaHockey ID a huge boost to link hockey and the Special Olympics.
“I thoroughly enjoyed being with you in Doetinchem and to feel the glory and happiness of all the participants. Huge thanks to the whole team of volunteers, the coaches, the parents and the athletes for making this happen.”
Talking about the development and growth of ParaHockey ID, Tom Pedersen Smith, EHF Development and Education Manager said “My predecessor, Norman Hughes, left me in no doubt that the growth of hockey for everyone is something that should be a core element of my job.
“In the EHF we have been working closely with the FIH, Special Olympics and INAS to ensure that we can make hockey available for everyone. There is still a lot of work to do and currently we are focusing on ParaHockey ID, hockey for players with intellectual disabilities with our National Associations.
“We want to ensure that ParaHockey ID has strength and depth within our countries and that the biennial Euro ParaHockey ID Championships keeps growing to allow these athletes experience the challenge and joy of playing in a EuroHockey event.”
Over the Olympic Day weekend of 22-24 June, the European ParaHockey ID Championships will take place in Barcelona, Spain, with teams from England, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Netherlands competing alongside the Grand Masters World Cup which is taking place between 20-30 June.
Next month ParaHockey teams from Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal will go head to head in Paris, France as part of the INAS European Games programme. It is hoped that these events will be a catalyst for the development of this discipline across the world as the FIH aims to grow the sport for all levels, age groups and ability.
The FIH has chosen to focus on ParaHockey as part of the sport's Olympic Day celebrations because it is one great example of the many ways that hockey has aligned itself with the Olympic ideal of inclusivity and the benefit of sport for all.
To quote the Olympic Charter: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind.”
It is a sentiment with which the hundreds of hockey players enjoying the competitiveness and camaraderie of the Special Olympics in Doetinchem would certainly agree.
To find out more about ParaHockey in Europe, please contact the .