On 24 June 2023, Special Olympics and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) took to the pitch to pen an inaugural agreement between the two organizations, dedicated to the development of hockey for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
Hockey made its first-ever appearance at World Games debuting in Berlin, being offered as a demonstration sport with 12 countries taking part, including hosts Germany.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations focuses on cooperation, development, and promotion of the sport around the world to create more opportunities for people with IDD to experience the social, emotional, and physical benefits of hockey. The agreement has an initial focus on developing the sport in the Europe and Latin America regions, where excitement has been growing.
Special Olympics CEO, Mary Davis, expressed high enthusiasm for the new partnership,
“We welcome this new agreement with the FIH. Hockey is an up-and-coming sport in Special Olympics, and we are excited to target more growth in the sport amongst existing Special Olympics athletes, and welcome more hockey athletes with and without intellectual disabilities into our Special Olympics family. We are grateful to the FIH for their leadership in including people with intellectual disabilities in their sport and look forward to our future together.”
President of the FIH, Mr. Tayyab Ikram, stated his gratitude for the first official cooperation between the two organizations,
“On behalf of FIH, I would like to express our gratitude to Special Olympics for partnering with us to boost the development of hockey for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It’s no coincidence if the signature of this Memorandum of Understanding occurs as FIH celebrates its Inclusion and Diversity Day today and hockey has made its first-ever appearance at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin this year. Hockey ID has been an integral part of our global hockey community since years now, and I’m glad that more and more National Associations are embracing it. Hockey is for all!”
Special Olympics hockey (also called Hockey ID) is a game adapted from the 11-a-side Olympic format to make hockey more globally accessible to players with intellectual disability. At the competition in Berlin, the athletes play 6x6 on a pitch 55-meters long and 43-meter wide, with matches lasting 30 minutes, divided in two by a half time break of five minutes.
Rob Crosse of the Special Olympics Great Britain hockey team discussed his journey in hockey,
“At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, that is when I got interested. I started training and playing hockey 8 years ago. It helps me with my fitness and I train twice a week. I like it when it is a big hockey family. The hockey ID family is thrilled to be in Berlin and be part of the Special Olympics World Games for the very first time. It has been a fabulous fun time and memories for life”
Sem Storm, Special Olympics Netherlands hockey team spoke about her love for hockey,
“[Hockey] means a lot to me. I love to do team sports and hockey drills and have fun. I learned that I am more confident than I think I am. I learned how to control my emotions and I use this in my work.”
Hockey started on the first day of competition with matches happening every day, and concluded on 24 June, followed by award ceremonies celebrating the athletic achievements of all 12 teams.