Special Olympics International and Microsoft have teamed up to tackle technology in sports.
Even a giant non-profit organization such as Special Olympics will have issues it needs to work through. Special Olympics International hosts 108,000 events per year, but according to GeekWire, “one of the heaviest lifts for the non-profit came from the basic mechanics of runnings their signature sporting events.”
At each event, there were functions of tallying scores, registering athletes and setting up matches. People would have to wait long hours to find out the schedule for the following day. In 2014, Microsoft and Special Olympics International teamed up to upgrade and automate technology pieces of the operations. Microsoft opened up its arms to help modernize the IT infrastructure that Special Olympics had been using.
“It’s an opportunity for us to present Seattle as a city of inclusion. We will have athletes and families coming to Seattle from every state in the country,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, as well as the honorary chair of the games. As an official sponsor of the Special Olympics in Seattle in July 2018, Microsoft has embraced its role as partner and transformed the way Special Olympics executes its events. Over the past few years, Microsoft has helped through software donation, technical assistance, and a program to employ disabled workers.
Don’t think that this is a one-sided partnership though. Microsoft has been able to learn more about the needs of people who participate in Special Olympics. It has been eye opening for the organization to see at the ground level what it can do to be more inclusive as a company for people around the world. It’s a true collaboration between Microsoft, who is dedicated to helping and impacting as many consumers as possible, and Special Olympics, who tries to “transform lives through the joy of sport.”
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NCAA student-athletes, coaches, and staff gathered to learn best practices in Inclusion in college sports.
This past month, the NCAA brought a group of academic and athletic leaders together with student-athletes to discuss the state of educational and professional environments at NCAA institutions. While the NCAA typically catches flack around March madness for what some believe to be athlete exploitation, this year, the Inclusion Forum may have granted it some reprieve.
The Forum was no publicity stunt, however. Sessions included heavy-hitting topics like balancing LGBTQ inclusion with religious freedom, recognizing and addressing racial tension, and collaborating with disability services. Several speakers addressed the challenges women face in the sports world, from securing head coaching positions to sexual assault on campus. One session was centered almost entirely on knowing the names and accomplishments of our Paralympic Athletes, incredibly profound in its simplicity. There was even a breakdown on how hip-hop culture is impacting student-athletes. The goal was to discuss policy, research, and best practices as it applies to inclusionary practices for student-athletes, coaches, and staff.
The roster of presenters included the best across industries, each bringing a unique perspective to the conversation. Attendees heard from Title IX champions, Dr. Christine Grant and Dr. Charlotte West, William Rhoden, sports journalist for ESPN’s The Undefeated, and mental health advocate Happy Carlock from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Not only did attendees learn from experts in the field, they also engaged in practical skill-building workshops like creating climate surveys for the workplace and utilizing a tool-kit to improve race relations in athletic departments. Participants learned about code-switching and language barriers and how those communication skills can positively impact student-athletes’ experiences.
The Forum even included issues that don’t always come to top of mind when thinking about inclusion. For example, college football Hall of Famer Don McPherson spoke on “healthy masculinity and the damaging effects of misogyny on male athletes, and Emily Pasnak-Lapchick of UNICEF, together with her father Richard Lapchick, PhD, explained how sports have the power to support the fight against human trafficking.
The NCAA Inclusion Forum seemed to hit the mark; topics were relevant and in-depth, and participants left with new knowledge to conquer the challenges of our day. The NCAA is to be applauded for its efforts to bring concrete change to its institutions, and hopefully the Forum will be the first step of many towards advancing inclusion in athletic programs nationwide.
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