NFL Player Turned Staffer is "Hooked"

January 25, 2010

A former professional player with the National Football League, Tony Covington understands the meaning of "the power of sports"--on and off the playing field.  He told us about the difference he sees in Special Olympics athletes and how his own worldview has been transformed.

Former NFL player Tony Covington smiles with a with Special Olympics athlete

Tony Covington's worldview has been transformed after meeting Special Olympics athletes.

A Chance to Compete

Tony Covington's introduction to nonprofits came while he played professional sports, with the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.   Remembering the impact of his own role models when he was growing up, Tony sought out opportunities to be involved and speak to kids in the community.  When someone suggested looking at nonprofit work as a professional path, it just went from there.  Today he calls himself  'a lifer' - "I've been hooked every since, feeling like I am changing lives and affecting change."  That path led him to come on board full time with Special Olympics, to help raise awareness and build programs in schools and the local community.

Although Tony always understood the power of sports to transform, everything changed when he met Special Olympics athletes.  It was the height of local summer games.  At an aquatics event, Tony saw a young girl in the pool, swimming, trying to get to the finish line. Her fellow swimmers were all already out of the water and cheering her on. 

This was a defining moment.  A competitive player, Tony always believed that those who say "it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game" have never played themselves.  He recalls watching in awe -- the girl in the water and the cheering crowd -- and having an 'aha' moment.  He then realized that it is not about winning or losing, but having a chance to compete, push your own boundaries, and cross the finish line.

"Sports teach you life skills, team work, and about working hard. The competition brings out self-confidence.  To be the best you can be, you have to work hard at it – and it’s not just about sport, it’s about your life being shaped by what you learn from sports."

Beyond athletics, Special Olympics is about raising awareness and helping people with intellectual disabilities belong and thrive.  "We have significant concerns about acceptance and inclusion in school systems," he says "our athletes go through a lot of health disparities."

"When talking to the athletes they tell me about being excluded, feeling like they are not a part of society.  Special Olympics helps them gain self-confidence, feel included, and realize they are not alone.  Beyond the sports field, they gain confidence to hold jobs, take college courses, to belong."

For Tony Covington the course is clear – getting the message out;  raising awareness;  promoting inclusion and acceptance for Special Olympics athletes; and letting the world know that Special Olympics is a vehicle for change.


Your Donation Matters

Special Olympics transforms athletes’ lives through the joy of sport. Help us make a difference.

DONATE TODAY»

Volunteer Near You

Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!

LEARN MORE»

Follow Us

Help us reach out to one more athlete.

Donate »

Find events near you and learn about volunteer opportunities at one of our 220 worldwide locations.

FIND A LOCATION NEAR YOU »

Videos and Photos

DifferentBarry Cairns tells what it's like to be a Special Olympics athlete.Watch Video »


Videos and Photos

SpeechlessSpecial Olympics changed her life in deep and meaningful ways.Watch Video »


Videos and Photos

Summer GamesAround the world, months of practice are paying off.See Slideshow »


Videos and Photos

Photos on FBSee photos and comments from our supporters around the world.See Photos »


Videos and Photos

Hope in HaitiLeo and Gedeon play in makeshift fields, tent towns, wherever they can.Watch Video »


Videos and Photos

Finding His VoiceDavid Egan has always dreamed big. Now look at him!Learn More »


Videos and Photos

Sport Teaches UsOur life-changing work is fueled by the power of sport.Watch Video »


Videos and Photos

Making SuccessDoctors said Lani is “never going to achieve anything.” Learn More »


Videos and Photos

Very Very SpecialMusic helps Special Olympics make an impact worldwide.See Slideshow »


Videos and Photos

Around The WorldGreat photos of Special Olympics events and people.See Slideshow »


Videos and Photos

Focus on ChangeWhat we do can't be done without our partners.See Slideshow »


Videos and Photos

Power of SportsSports are a powerful way to change our athlete’s lives.See Slideshow »


Videos and Photos

What We DoSports, health, education, community and more.See Slideshow »


Videos and Photos

Who We AreWe are athletes, families, celebs, volunteers and more.See Slideshow »


Videos and Photos

Summer SportsOur athletes run, jump, swim and score in summer.See Slideshow »


Videos and Photos

Playing UnifiedUnified Sports reveals strengths in every team member.Watch Video »


Videos and Photos

Healthier AthletesOur free health clinics are making a huge difference.Watch Video »


Videos and Photos

Deon NamisebHe's a speaker and role model. It didn't start that way in Namibia.Learn More »


Special Olympics Blog

Health Needs Need Closer Examination

"You can't compete if your feet hurt, if your teeth hurt or if your ears ache."read more »

Posted on 2014-04-07 by Ryan

go to blog »


*

Special Olympics - Become a Fan