Report on Down Special Olympics Club

A focus on the good work in tt development at  Down Special Olympics Club…


Down Special Olympics Club was founded c.2007. It currently has 53 members & 22 volunteers. Club members (athletes) are split into two age groups – 14 to 18 & 21 plus. Members (athletes) are have intellectual disabilities but may also be physically handicapped.

The first sports offered were boccia and football. In autumn 2011 table tennis was added. Table tennis coaches were recruited from The Lecale League.  Noel Breen, Jim Ritchie and Peter Doherty and others volunteered on a rota system. I joined the rota in late November 2011. Since January 2012 Mark Cullen and myself have taken on the coaching. I believe that coach continuity & a coherent programme are essential.

At present we have 8-10 regularly attending athletes. These are from the 21 + group and there is an even gender split. We are helped by three Special Olympics volunteers. We also work to develop the table tennis skills of these volunteers. We have been taking a 2 hour session on Friday evenings and a 1 hour session on Monday.

Initially the Club wanted to see if we could make progress in Table Tennis with the players we have. In March 2012 we played a friendly match against Monaghan & we emerged with 3 of the 6 available trophies- one for the skills test and two for round robin tournaments. We now want to develop the club and expand numbers. We would like to cater for younger players. To do this we need to develop the skills of the players we have, build an equipment base and a sound coaching strategy.

Our athletes

Most of our athletes come to table tennis with a very high level of commitment and a desire to succeed. Success brings unmitigated joy.

Our job is to help athletes enjoy table tennis. We are committed to helping athletes perform to the highest possible level that their abilities allow.

What we do

We celebrate the good & do not focus on the problems.
We try to identify problems & design physical games /tasks or jokes to overcome these.
We increase the length & difficulty of specific activities gradually.

We focus on learning by doing and initially try to minimise verbal instructions.

Sessions break into three parts:

a)  Warm up

b)   A session targeting a particular skill
c)   Relaxed competition to reinforce b) above  or a previously learn skill.

All but one of our players can now sustain a rally. All are able to focus and play for longer. Movement has improved. We have helped one player to lose 2 stone in weight. All players are more balanced and relaxed. This has lead to better co-ordination. Our skills test scores have improved hugely. Confidence levels are higher. We are having fun.