International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletes’ Council has published its first strategy with the aim of placing athletes at the centre of the Paralympic Movement.
The strategy has been released following two years of consultation with athlete representatives and stakeholders.
Called “At the heart”, the strategy places a focus on priorities which are split between the role of Para athletes within sport and looking at the wider Paralympic Movement.
The first priority is to build athlete leaders through improved athlete networks, effective representation models and improved mechanisms to develop leadership.
The strategy also calls for support to athletes’ careers, which would place a focus on equipping Para athletes with tools and resources to inform and educate them.
Athletes being provided with opportunities to expand their knowledge beyond their sport has also been cited as part of this strategic priority.
When attempting to influence progress of the Paralympic Movement, the strategy calls for the development of resources which supports the IPC membership in creating governance structures which include athlete representatives.
Promotion of the benefits of having athlete representation formally included in membership constitutions has also been urged.
The final strategic priority calls for the enhancement of the sporting environment of Paralympic athletes, with recognition of diverse athlete impairments and advocate for their needs that enable them to perform at their best.
It is hoped the strategy will serve as a guide to athletes and the IPC membership as to how the IPC Athletes’ Council could build athlete leaders and ensure the Paralympic Movement is athlete-centred.
“This is a very exciting and historic moment for the IPC Athletes’ Council,” said Chelsey Gotell, IPC Athletes’ Council chair.
“It is the culmination of the work this Council and the Councils before us have done, together with the ongoing support from the IPC Governing Board and management team.
“This strategy is for the whole Paralympic Movement, with every stakeholder having a crucial role to play in ensuring its success.
“It needs to be endorsed, supported and implemented at all levels – from the IPC Governing Board and management team to the IPC’s 200-plus members and the athlete community
“I am confident that by delivering this strategy, which covers four priority areas, we can help build effective athlete leaders and support our athletes on and off the field of play.
“We can also help guide the progress of the Paralympic Movement by ensuring the views of athletes are recognised and valued, while further enhancing the environment and experiences for all athletes.
“‘At the heart’ is about fostering a culture within the Paralympic Movement that lives the values of being athlete-centred.
“It goes far beyond words on paper and the use of the term “athlete-centred” as a buzz word that, at times, is thrown around but not well understood or fostered among athletes and within organisations.
“Implementation is key to our success; not only will this strategy benefit the athlete community, but it will benefit our membership in creating more dynamic and inclusive organisations that will be even more successful both on and off the field of play.
“We will be helping drive the future evolution of the Paralympic Movement with stronger sport governance, business and community leaders that will create an enormous impact across all public and private sectors.”
IPC President Andrew Parsons has given his support to the strategy, asserting that athletes' voices need to be heard.
He confirmed the IPC Governing Board had formally approved the strategy and would seek to boost its implementation.
“If the Paralympic Movement is to be truly athlete-centred, then all athletes – whether current, future or retired – really must be at the heart of everything we do,” Parsons said.
“Their voices need to be heard and involved in the decision making-process, as ultimately what is decided will impact them, both on and off the field of play.
“This plan – the first of its kind to be produced by the IPC Athletes’ Council – has taken time to produce because so many athlete representatives from National Paralympic Committees to international federation, have been heard, taken into account and formulated into four priority areas.
“The IPC Governing Board has formally approved the strategy and is already working on ways to further support its implementation at a governance level.
“As an organisation, the IPC will continue to be front-runners in creating and living a culture that embeds the athlete voice at the centre of its operation."
The strategy can be read in full here IPC Athletes Council strategy.pdf