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Beyond Sport Young Ambassador Corrine Eckert

Copyrights: New Jersey Dare Devils

Beyond Sport Young Ambassador Corrine Eckert

sportanddev.org caught up with Corrine Eckert to learn more about her work with young autistic ice hockey players.

The Beyond Sport Young Ambassador’s programme recognises the work that young people are doing to make sport more inclusive. Through their work with Beyond Sport, these ambassadors are given a platform to share their experiences, connect with other young people in the sector and teach audiences about the importance of sport in their lives.

Corrine Eckert was chosen because of her work with autistic youth. After suffering a concussion that prevented her from playing for her high school ice hockey team, a friend encouraged her to try coaching. Corrine was introduced to the New Jersey Dare Devils, an ice hockey team created by the parents of autistic children. The Dare Devils were formed in 2002 when one parent was searching for a physical outlet for her autistic child. The team now has over 50 participants.

On her first day Corrine was paired with an eight-year-old girl who had never spoken. She explains that sport became their form of communication. Eckert would repeat “skate, skate” while encouraging her to move across the ice. Their connection strengthened through Corrine’s teaching of the sport so much that “skate” was the girl’s first word.

During the interview, Corrine spoke about the different aspects of ice hockey that make it enjoyable and useful for autistic youth. Autism is described as a spectrum that includes a wide list of behaviours related to difficulty in communicating,  forming relationships and grasping abstract concepts.

Corrine explains that autistic youth can seem aggressive due to their difficulty in controlling energy and emotions. Ice hockey gives them an outlet. Interestingly, when given a stick and skates, these participants never use them to act out. Instead, the participants know that they are there to play. The enclosed space of the rink also requires that they work together and in harmony.

The Dare Devil team may not play classic ice hockey, but the parents and Corrine don’t feel this is important. What is vital is that autistic youth are given a chance to benefit from organised sports. They get to be physically active, challenge themselves in new ways and work together. Some of the participants have flourished on the ice and learned to communicate in ways that were previously limited.

Corrine feels that working with the Dare Devils has changed her life in a fundamental way. Her work as a Beyond Sport Young Ambassador has not only introduced her to other young people helping others, but has reinforced her belief in the power of sport to change our lives for the better.

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Published

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 09:44

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