We all smiled when Afton, Minnesota cross country skier, Jessie Diggins, gave it her all as she crossed the finish line to clinch a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Watching the Olympic athletes try their best and achieve their goals is inspirational and prompts some of us to dream of our own gold medal moment. These moments of victory are especially inspirational for children and can be a spark to try a new physical activity.
More than 1,400 athletes with different impairments are competing at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea March 9-18.
Tammy Larson supervises the therapeutic recreation specialists at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. She’s an avid Olympic watcher and says the games are an opportunity for kids and parents to think about trying a new sport. Gillette offers lots of support and resources for kids who are patients.
“We just need a Gillette provider to send us an order in a child’s medical record stating that the child is interested and approved to explore a new sport,” Larson says. “Then we’ll take it from there. It’s a free service and we can talk to families in person or on the phone to steer them in the right direction.”
Larson is proud that her department can go beyond just providing a list of phone numbers. “We’re trained to ask questions to find out more about the child’s desire to participate in a sport.” According to Larson, the physical challenges can help with strength and flexibility but the social part of playing a sport is also important.
“It’s great to see kids being part of a team and making friends. We can steer families to places where they can meet other kids in similar physical condition and they can form friendships.”
Larson and the therapeutic rec team at Gillette let families know about “try it before you buy it” opportunities. “Sometimes it’s difficult for a family to try to invest in adaptive sports equipment. It can be expensive and you want to make sure your child is really interested in participating in the sport before you make a financial commitment,” Larson suggests.
“Having the opportunity to participate in athletics is important. I see kids in our waiting rooms at Gillette and I can pick out which kids are athletes. They have more confidence and just hold themselves differently,” Larson says. The benefits of consistent physical activity also include better weight control, improved heart health and muscle strength.
Larson reminds us that not every child will wind up being an Olympic or Paralympic athlete but having fun and challenging yourself physically is helpful for all kids to live their best life.