Young athletes from all over the city came together for the Special Olympics Football event that was held at Pioneer Stadium in Christchurch.

This event is a special day for all participants who get an opportunity to represent their school and play against athletes from other schools. It was a day was filled with lots of smiles, laughter, cheering, teamwork and sportsmanship.

Sport New Zealand’s, Big Win campaign, informs us that big wins in sport don’t just have to be on the scoreboard. Sport is a great way for young people to make new friends, build their social circle and nurture their sense of belonging. Being part of a social environment is important in a young persons life, as it provides them with the opportunity to develop and practice key social skills at a critical stage of their journey.

Paula Windsor, Special Olympics Canterbury Co-Ordinator mentions that Special Olympics is not just about sport, but also about making friends, because people with intellectual disabilities often have fewer opportunities to socialise and make new friends.

After the event we asked students from Papanui High School Kimi Ora Department, Ethan Oakes and Lachlan Lawson, how important is it to be a part of a team and what they have learnt about teamwork since being a part of this team,

“I do like being part of a team because I like doing stuff with other students. It makes me feel good and calm. I have learnt I need to be strong and work together. I help other people in my team, I like doing this, Lachlan.

“It is very important for me to be in a team because I get to play sport with other students. I like playing against other schools. I get to cooperate with others. I have learnt that you have to pass to each other and we help each other. I use good words to my team mates like “well done” and “keep up the good work“, Ethan.

Events run by Special Olympics also provide students with intellectual disabilities a chance to represent their school in something they enjoy and are passionate about which helps to foster connectedness to their school and give them a sense of belonging. Lachlan and Ethan both acknowledge how being able to attend these events makes them feel and what it means to them to wear the Papanui colours.

“I feel proud representing our school. My mum was proud of what I have achieved in a team “, Lachlan.

“I like being in a team because everyone is friendly. I like getting high fives when I score. I feel excited to represent my school. I like wearing our team clothes”, Ethan.