Sponsored by the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko, an All-Russian conference took place in Moscow, focusing on the issues of physical rehabilitation and socialization of children with disabilities through team sports. The conference was attended by 100+ people from 30 states in Russia; the attendees were able to compare notes and discuss growth options.
The Conference was endorsed online by the International Paralympic Committee, the USA Hockey Federation, Cruisers Sport Canada, Sisu Team Finland, the of Australia, the Sledge Hockey Association of Japan, the International Blind Ice Hockey Federation, and the Parahockey Federation of Czechia and Slovakia.
Vladislav Tretyak, president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation: “The Hockey Federation with our affiliated Children’s Sledge Hockey League supports and promotes disabled hockey in this country. I welcome all attendees to the conference, which will discuss the promotion of the sport. We will discuss in what cities we have teams and where teams are to be created. And the main task is to put in place infrastructure for competing. The Hockey Federation has developed a bespoke programme, Red Machine, for the promotion of children’s hockey. The programme has a section on the promotion of sledge hockey. We very much hope that it will come useful for us. And today I would like to wish you luck, more wins, health and gold medals”.
Apart from the opening of new teams, sledge hockey teams for low-mobility people in Russian provinces, the last year saw two new disciplines introduced: parahockey for mentally challenged people and hockey for the blind and visually impaired. A companion reference book was also published for the conference, giving the future coordinator the information needed to set up and grow a children’s disabled hockey team. The handbook will come in useful for professionals interested in exploring this field, as well as for the parents of young hockey players with disabilities. The content can be downloaded free of charge on the website of the Children’s Sledge Hockey League.
Sergey Altukhov, professor at the Higher School of Economics: “The initiative of the Timchenko Foundation and the Children’s Sledge Hockey League is a humanitarian leap forward, through people! The good things about hockey is a system, a structure, with forwards, defencemen, a goalkeeper, hard and fast rules, well-defined roles and teamwork. Learning these skills is a big step towards socialization of challenged children. Thanks to such work, the unique aptitudes of children can be identified and tapped”.
The Children’s Sledge Hockey League’s plans for the next year provide for growing new disabled hockey clubs in the provinces. Teams have been set up in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in the Far East; new disciplines are being explored in Moscow suburbia. This season has seen cooperation agreements inked with active teams, as well as 6 cooperation agreements with new teams from Kirov, Sochi, Kazan, Penza, Omsk and Yekaterinburg. There are being organized crash courses for players, an international camp, provincial tournaments and an annual all-Russian festival.
Serious training provided for the coaching staff by the Children’s Sledge Hockey League and work with the team managers and parents have resulted in a working arrangement put in place that makes it possible to build and grow new teams. The Russian Federation Presidential grant for the development of civil society that has been provided by the Presidential Grants Foundation will be used to study the new teams to evaluate the effect of disabled hockey on the physical and sociopsychological development of children.
This year the Children’s Sledge Hockey League also introduces a new liaison tool — a mentoring system.
Anastasia Baradacheva, President of the Children’s Sledge Hockey League: “Mentors, who are adult players, will assist in training. They can share both their technical knowledge of the game and their values with the kids. This season Mentors will be visiting children’s teams in the provinces to mentor and socialize with the kids. This way we will be able to build a bridge between sporting generations. This is something no sport can do without”.
In 4 years the Children’s Sledge Hockey League has brought together more than 20 provinces and several hundred special-needs children, who managed to discover their new abilities thanks to hockey.
Natalia Pochinok, Rector, RGSU [Russian State Social University (RSSU)], Doctor of Economic Sciences: “The last year saw the Children’s Sledge Hockey League make a great leap forward. A large number of teams operate under their own steam, and more and more provinces are turning to this sport and provide infrastructure! And if you are offered a chance to try yourself at sledge hockey, don’t hesitate! Hockey is not for cowards! It offers an excellent opening for a healthy and confident individual, who will be able to grow in more ways than one thanks to sports. Children learn to find their way through their problems as easily as through opposition to score a goal”.