Maggie Frederick has returned home from an amazing experience at the UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp in Bradenton, Florida. She was so anxious and excited to share with BlazeSports, as well as, the Blaze community her thoughts on the program. Below is a photo of the 32 individuals who participated in the leadership camp, and Maggie’s final reflection.
I had only been interning at BlazeSports for a few weeks when BlazeSports staff suggested I apply for the UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp in Florida. I didn’t really know much about it except I would be learning about sport for development. I will be honest though, I had no idea what that even meant. I found out that I was accepted into the camp. I was so excited because I was going to Florida for 2 weeks and I was going to get to meet people from all over the world. Still, I had no idea what I was going to be doing there.
When I arrived to the camp, I met 2 people from Spain and one from Mexico. We talked on the bus on the way to the camp and I started to think I was the wrong person for this. The people I was with seemed more knowledgeable than me and I was feeling out of place and very nervous. Once we arrived to the IMG academy, I was even more nervous because the first building that I needed to get into was not accessible. I started to wonder what other obstacles I would face over the 2 weeks. From there I finally made it to my room and met one of my 3 roommates. My mind started to ease because my place where I was staying was accessible.
The next morning we had our first session. There were 32 participants representing 20 countries. We discussed what we would be doing and played some ice breaker games to get to know everyone. I knew right then that I had nothing to be worried about. Everyone was so kind that I wasn’t really worried about what I knew or didn’t know. At that moment I knew I was going to come home with so much information and knowledge. All my nerves went away and I was excited to learn new material.
We started the camp with a session from IPC (International Paralympic Committee). I enjoyed this session because I knew a lot of the information and was able to contribute a lot. All of the sessions started with a classroom session and then we had a hands-on session and participated in activities they do in their program. When IPC did the hands-on session, it was very similar to our BlazeDays. We did blind soccer, boccia, sit volleyball, and basketball. I demonstrated to the group how to dribble, push, and pick up the ball using the wheel. When we broke up into groups I stayed at the basketball station to help.
One of my favorite sessions was learning about Judo. The instructor seemed so passionate about what he was teaching that it made me more interested in it. Judo is based on a moral code and in order to move up to the different belts, not only do you have to learn the skills, but learn the history behind Judo as well. It is not about fighting, it is about respect and you are only to use the technique learned in class during Judo.
During the camp we talked a lot about inclusion. I have never participated in sports with only able bodied people. During camp I was the only one with a physical disability so I had to do things a little differently than the group. For the most part I was able to participate in most activities. One challenge I came across was when we were learning rugby. We were playing on grass so it was difficult for me. I did the drills and warm up but since the field was not accessible for me and no one else was in a chair, I could not safely play against the others. Despite all of this, I was strongly encouraged to play which was a great feeling.
Before the camp I knew nothing about sport for development. But by the end of camp, I knew this was something I wanted to learn more about and become more involved in. I think everyone learned a lot from each other and became eager to continue to learn more. Leaving camp was so hard by the end because we spent every moment with each other for 2 weeks.
I am so happy and honored that BlazeSports thought I was a good candidate, and that I was selected for UNOSDP. I learned so much about myself and from all of the organizations, as well as, the other participants. I am so thankful for this experience and can not wait to be able to put into use what I learned at the camp.