I learned from working on SOA Learn. You will too.

I feel fortunate to have worked with Special Olympics Australia (SOA) in recent years. Sprouting from a conversation over coffee in early 2017, Leaders of Evolution were engaged to design an ambitious e-learning and marketing strategy that would position SOA as a subject matter support for the sport, education and disability sectors. 

I must admit, at that point in time, sport and education were safe spaces for me but I felt less confident about developing learning material focused on disability. I learned, in the time since, the challenge is a perceived one. Working closely with SOA Athletes (Andrew, Amanda, Sarah among so many others) has personally helped me to overcome stereotypes, and in the process, contributed to outcomes that help create a more equitable Australia. The lesson of exposure and empathy is something I am willing to re-learn repeatedly.

Resilience Workshop by Leaders of Evolution

More than a sport

SOA are a national sporting organisation for people with an intellectual disability that are part of a global movement. A movement that in the truest sense, uses sport as a tool for social cohesion. Beyond providing vulnerable Australians much needed access to physical activity, sport is employed to improve health, education and social outcomes. Aiming to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. 

Passion + planning = realisation

The initial output was Australia’s first coaching course intended to improve sport for people with an intellectual disability, the result was something special for a partner that wanted to make an impact – a community of learning that made sport more inclusive. We worked hand in hand with people with lived experience to film, edit and design the course. This was the start of my learning journey.

The success of the SOA Learn portal in delivering education was overwhelming. 500 people registered within 3 months for the initial course with a 98% satisfaction rate upon completion. This was reinforced with our most recently released course An Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder which to this point has close to 300 completions. Throw in thousands of downloads of the SOA activity cards and hundreds of new users registering on the platform in just the last couple of weeks and it paints a picture of how SOA are stamping themselves as a subject matter support for the sport, disability and education sectors.

More to come

We are excited about what is coming next too. On June 19, we will launch the Young Athletes Coach Accreditationonline coaching course, supporting an inclusive fundamental movement skills program for children aged 2 to 7. We will also release a sneak peek into the Young Athletes Lesson Plans course on June 5, giving those interested an insight into the resources available to deliver the program.

In the midst of this we are also in the final stages of reviewing two important documents that will drive organisation strategy into the future, specifically linked to coach development and online learning.

sports coaching courses At Leaders of Evolution

The first ever SOA Coach Development Framework (CDF) will be released in July, providing clear direction for the what, why and how of coaching athletes with an intellectual disability. As a passionate coach and coach educator it has been an honour to work on this ground breaking resource for the sport with Mike McLaughlin from McLaughlin Sports Consultancy. This resource will form the foundation for coach development activities in the sport for the next decade and brings the organisation in line with contemporary coaching structures in Australian sport.

Hot on the heels of this will be a revamped online learning strategy that will utilise the CDF and a recent survey of SOA Learn users to design a framework that will not only provide clarity on future courses and activities but be reflective of the needs of the learning community also.

We continue to work on more courses that will provide ongoing development opportunities for coaches and teachers and are assisting SOA in delivering programs to improve inclusion in school sport across Australia. All programs have the national physical literacy framework at their core, helping vulnerable Australians to improve lifelong learning through movement and physical activity. 

SOA have been innovative in thought and action, allowing us the freedom to develop something that is making an impact. There are now over 2000 registered users on SOA Learn. Leaders of Evolution are proud to have contributed to such an initiative that has made an impact on the community and we feel privileged to work in a partnership that continues to help us grow as educators and people.

If you haven’t checked out SOA Learn you can head to www.soalearn.com.au to create a free account and start browsing the learning. Who knows? You might just learn as much as I have over these last three years.

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Leaders of Evolution are passionate about education. We expertly design and deliver technology enhanced e-learning courses focused on leadership, social and emotional learning, career readiness and sports coaching for students, teachers, athletes, coaches and the wider community.

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Damian Hecker

Keeping an eye on all sports, especially the mighty Hawthorn Football Club, staying fit in the great outdoors and sneaking in some travel wherever possible occupy Damian's time away from designing e-learning curriculum for both Leaders of Evolution and our valued E-learning Hub Partners.


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