International Paralympic Committee (IPC)
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International Paralympic Committee (IPC)

Oceania coaches attend Coach Development Workshop in Japan

Oceania coaches from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu and Kiribati were fortunate to attend a Coach Development Workshop conducted by the Nippon Sports Science University (NSSU) in Tokyo this past weekend. Joined by coaches from Japan, Brunei, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Zambia the workshop was a truly international gathering. Most evident was the passion for para-sport by all those attending and their desire to create opportunities for para-athletes through sport and ultimately increasing the chances of athletes from these countries attending the 2020 Paralympic Games.

coach was required to conduct a coaching session where they were given feedback on the coaching process by coach developers from around the globe. Vanuatu coaches Deni Kalanga and Timothy Loughman “stole the show” on day 1 of the workshop when they chose to teach a traditional Vanuatu dance rather than an athletics skill. Wearing head wear and grass skirts the duo had the other coaches enthusiastically embracing the chance use the dance sticks and shakers made from local nuts to learn more about the culture of Vanuatu and the Pacific Islands. It was suggested that if dance was to enter the Paralympic Games that Vanuatu would definitely be a medal contender.

Not to be outdone female coaches Jackie Travertz and Meiling Choong from Papua New Guinea took the opportunity to facilitate group discussions where their skills ensured each group was engaged in meaningful dialogue regarding the difficulties of developing athletes in smaller island countries where resources are limited. High on the list of identified barriers was access to transport and also access to good quality coaching. It was evident that these issues are similar across the Pacific, Asia and Africa for those attempting to establish para-sport programs in less developed countries.

Fiji was represented by Mr Fred Fatiaki who recently stepped down as the president of the Fiji Paralympic Committee to commit further time to the athletes he is now coaching. Being the coach of the only athlete to win a Paralympic gold medal from the Oceania region (outside Australia and New Zealand) Mr Fatiaki knows firsthand that being involved in para-sport can be life changing for athletes. Also from Fiji Mr Epeli Baleibau attended to improve his coaching skills as he transitions from being a Paralympian in Rio competing in the F47 High Jump, to now having his own squad of athletes in the outreaches of Fiji. My Baleibau said “It is exciting for me to be here and I thank the organisers very much for the chance to improve my skills. I now have many other coaches I can contact if I have questions about my coaching and mentors who can help me as I improve. This workshop has been excellent.”

Each of the coaches mentioned were identified as part of the talent identification which the Oceania Paralympic Committee has undertaken in recent years with the support of the Agitos Foundation. Joining this group was Mr Karotu Bakae a teacher from Kiribati, the latest island to gain International Paralympic Committee membership, who wants his students with disabilities to become involved in para-sport.

Visits to the Pacific Islands on regular basis has created mentoring relationships between these coaches and Mr Chris Nunn who has more than 30m years experience in elite Paralympic sport. Mr Nunn was engaged by the NSSU to be a co-facilitator for this workshop and said, “This workshop has given the Pacific Island coaches the chance to show the rest of the world the skills they have developed in working with athletes and other coaches. This collegiate approach to coach development will rapidly enhance the skills of the coaches and ultimately improve the chances of their athletes achieving qualifying standards in readiness for the Tokyo Paralympics. I congratulate the NSSU on this initiative.”

The coaches now return to their islands having developed an action plan which will make a difference in the lives of para-athletes throughout Oceania.

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