A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL. International initiative to help young athletes from Ukraine

3 minutes of reading
3 minutes of reading

To be able to continue doing what you enjoy and to feel like you belong in the team... In cooperation with the Czech Red Cross, the Czech Olympic Committee has joined the International Olympic Committee's initiative to support young athletes displaced by the war in Ukraine. The aim is to train coaches to be able to create a safe environment for their charges.

Under the auspices of the Olympic Refuge Foundation, lecturers and coaches will strive to provide conditions in which young athletes can build on their lives while away from home.  "We try to help young athletes integrate into our society, provide them with a safe and friendly environment in sports clubs and to be close to coaches who do not have experience working with children and youth with refugee status from a country where there is currently an armed conflict," said Iva Jelínková, the project's guarantor for the Czech Republic, in the name of the Czech Red Cross.

It’s not just one training session, but above all follow-up work and support.

The first phase of the project, the three-day Sport Coach+ training, took place at the headquarters of the Czech Red Cross. Eight members of the Czech Red Cross were trained in the field of psychosocial support and will subsequently pass on their experience and knowledge to 300 coaches as lecturers. "Most of the participants of the Training of Trainers are experienced lecturers who train members and volunteers of the Czech Red Cross in the field of psychosocial support and at this training they further improved their skills with a more detailed insight into the issue from the coach and his/her charges perspective," Jelínková added.

However, the cooperation between lecturers and coaches does not end there. "They will remain interconnected. We will gradually fine-tune and look for everyone's "comfort zone" in terms of their mutual cooperation – personal meetings, online platforms where trainers and coaches can share experiences, etc. Plain and simple, we will be close by and if a coach needs advice on a particular situation or problem, they can always contact the lecturers. This is the aim of the project. It’s not just one training session, but above all follow-up work and support. The Czech Red Cross has been working with refugees since the first wave and we appreciate that our PS Centre IFRC – Psychosocial Support Centre of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – approached us to participate in this project so we can be useful," she also added.

It is a year-long project involving six countries in addition to the Czech Republic and Ukraine itself. "Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova – these are the countries with the largest number of Ukrainian refugees," explained Jeroen Carrin, Senior Programmes Manager at ORF, who together with ORF Director Jojo Ferris was personally present at the Prague training.

During their stay in Prague, the ORF representatives also visited the headquarters of the Czech NOC, where they discussed with Petr Graclík, Secretary General, and Veronika Zemanová, Director of the Foreign Section, how to train as many coaches and physical education teachers as possible and how to communicate the issues of safe environment in sport and social inclusion through the Czech NOC’s communication channels and projects so that the acquired knowledge has the greatest impact. In addition, the representatives of the Czech NOC appreciated that the International Olympic Committee has been working on this issue and helping individual National Committees.

The official part of the programme will end in December 2024. "However, I strongly believe that even after that all coaches will be able to contact us at any time as part of the ongoing cooperation with the Czech NOC," Iva Jelínková concluded.

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