Anyone who was at Mid-America Sports Complex for the Special Olympics Kentucky State Basketball Tournament saw the birth of a new SOKY Healthy Athletes initiative – Strong Minds. Strong Minds is an interactive learning activity focused on developing adaptive coping skills. Competition provides a natural opportunity to develop active strategies for maintaining emotional wellness under stress, such as: thinking positive thoughts, releasing stress and connecting with others. Athletes learn about and try a few different active coping strategies as they move through the stations. Before exiting, athletes identify the strategies they like best and volunteers provide them with visual reminders to use these tools in competition and in daily life.
Like its other Healthy Athletes predecessors, Strong Minds addresses a major health need for people with intellectual disabilities. Data collected during Strong Minds pilot programs indicated that nearly 75% of participants had no or only limited coping strategies, which could lead to additional problems such as depression.
Strong Minds programs seek to help athletes manage stress both in competition and in their daily lives, provide resources on good coping for athletes, coaches & caregivers, start conversations about stress, coping and emotional wellness, provide training and experiences for health student and professionals to discuss emotional well-being with individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.
Strong Minds made its debut at the State Basketball Tournament with the help of Steve Forman of Lee Specialty Clinic and Elaine Eisenbaum of the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky. Forman is the Regional Clinical Director for Strong Minds for Special Olympics International. Athletes who were not able to visit Strong Minds at the basketball tournament in March will have another opportunity when the program joins the Healthy Athletes Wellness Village at the 2018 State Summer Games.
Healthy Athletes Programs provide free medical screenings administered by trained heath services volunteers. The Special Olympics Kentucky Healthy Athletes Program included Opening Eyes vision screenings, Special Smiles dental screenings, Healthy Hearing screenings, Fit Feet screenings, FUNFitness flexibility and physical therapy screenings and Health Promotions healthy lifestyles instruction. Most are offered at the Summer Games and at annual MedFest events. In 2016, Special Olympics Kentucky provided more than 1,100 total health screenings and more than 250 referrals for additional care.
For more information about the Strong Minds or Healthy Athletes Program, contact Kim Satterwhite, Senior Director of Field and Athletes Services at 502-695-8222 or [email protected].