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Our Coaches

Floor hockey players in South Africa gather round their coach for a strategy session before a tournament held near Johannesburg. Photo by Will Schermerhorn

Was there a mentor, teacher or coach who made a difference in your life? The one who gave you the courage and determination to strive to be your best? The one who helped shape both your performance and your character? You can be that important person in someone else’s life.

More Than a Coach

Coaches teach the skills and spirit that define a true athlete. Coaches are role models and character-builders.

Special Olympics coaches go even further -- they help athletes with intellectual disabilities find their own strengths and abilities. They also show them how to build upon those strengths and improve every day.

As a Special Olympics coach, you bring enthusiasm, commitment and a positive attitude to each practice, event and competition. You will enrich the lives of our athletes in many life-changing ways. The skills and confidence an athlete learns through sports have a long and lasting effect. They can help an athlete succeed in school or even find a job.

Coaches also get a lot in return. They get to know athletes who inspire -- athletes who are brave and determined, despite the odds against them.  Coaches become more than teachers, mentors and role models -- they are seen as leaders in the community.  

About Intellectual Disability

Special Olympics is a global movement of people who want to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. But what are intellectual disabilities? Learn More

Coaching Excellence

Special Olympics is committed to Coaching Excellence -- because it benefits both coaches and athletes at the same time. In a supportive learning environment, coaches work to enhance athletes’ sport techniques, tactics and fitness.

One of our top Coaching Excellence goals calls for ongoing coaches’ education; this includes partnering with sports organizations to provide the highest and most up-to-date level of coaching knowledge. Coaching Excellence education helps our coaches better recognize each athlete’s potential. It also comes into play as we increase training and competition opportunities so that each athlete can reach -- or exceed -- their personal best.

As you can see, the focus and commitment is on the athletes. In this way, appropriate training helps coaches provide the best opportunities and experiences for athletes -- at every developmental level -- to reach their maximum potential.

Our coaches aim high and take pride in their athletes' achievements, which can often be life-changing moments. In the words of Annette Lynch, senior manager of Sports Partnerships, Special Olympics North America: “If better is possible, good is not enough.”


Special Olympics athletes with coach in a huddle.

Bringing Out the Best. Special Olympics coaches play an important role in the lives of Special Olympics athletes. 

Coaches Who Inspire -- and Are Inspired

Our coaches give Special Olympics athletes the chance to reach his or her potential --and find their dreams. At the same time, something special can happen.

For Mike Cohen, the surprise came after he began coaching young men with intellectual disabilities who loved basketball. With his training and guidance, the team grew in skill and confidence. They soon began competing against other Special Olympics teams throughout Florida. Soon, their classmates and neighborhood began to follow their games. For the first time, the young men were valued and praised in their community.

Coach Cohen expected Special Olympics to give purpose to these young men. But he didn’t expect to be transformed himself – by their courage and commitment. He also knew he had made a real difference in their lives. Now he is a key player in his local Special Olympics Program. He encourages everyone he knows to get involved.


Stories About Our Coaches


January 19, 2015 | North America: Northern California

SHERYL

By Jim Cole

I worked(???) for Special Olympics for 10 years..I was blessed to meet a very young girl --She was TRULY SPECIAL...We went to ALL the local events and TWICE to STATE GAMES..View Story I worked(???) for Special Olympics for 10 years..I was blessed to meet a very young girl --She was TRULY SPECIAL...We went to ALL the local events and TWICE to STATE GAMES..What a GREAT athlete and better still--A DELIGHTFUL person..I have NOT seen Sheryl in many years..BUT!!!!! this summer we will meet again as her family will be in the FRIDAY HARBOR area..CAN't wait,,But I WILL!!!

About Jim Cole:I was lucky enough(in my younger days)to be a coach for group of TRACK athletes.In my eighties now.I graduated as a PE major--became a builder..I spent 10 GLORIOUS years with these KIDS (8--63) I WAS lucky
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January 19, 2015 | North America: Jamaica

Special Olympics Jamaica Floorball Goalkeeper Gets “Special Instructions”

By Victor L. Brown, SOJ Floorball Coordinator

Greg instructing Oshain

Oshain Daley is a Special Olympics Jamaica athlete who will benefit from resources that have been arranged by the Jamaica Floorball Association (JFA) to be on-island until March 2015.View Story Oshain Daley is a Special Olympics Jamaica athlete who will benefit from resources that have been arranged by the Jamaica Floorball Association (JFA) to be on-island until March 2015. Gregoire Schneider, (former Goalkeeper for UHC Biel Seeland and former President of UC Corcelles-Cormodrèche in Switzerland) has agreed to provide some observations and instruction to Oshain to improve his Goalkeeping skills and techniques Gregoire has already observed that “Oshain has a good basic positioning and we’ll be working on helping him to keep it when he is moving in front of on-coming players. I would also say that Oshain has good reflexes”. “This is a great opportunity for Oshain to get first hand expert advice to improve his skills. We thank the JFA for bringing this resource on-island. Gregoire’s length of stay is timely as we are looking towards the 2015 Canada Cup. With this direct intervention we are sure that Oshain will improve on the good showing at the 2014 event.” Wayne Roberts, Assistant Coach, Youth Development.

About Victor L. Brown, SOJ Floorball Coordinator:I've been coordinating the development of SOJ Floorball for 3-years. We have traditional athletes (to include wheelchair) and a Unified team that has played at the 2014 Canada Cup
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December 24, 2014 | Why I Support Special Olympics

Friends before Coach

By Tara Power

2010 came as any other year would, with the promise I would accomplish and change and become a better me. The only thing different about 2010 is that my life was about to change forever.View Story 2010 came as any other year would, with the promise I would accomplish and change and become a better me. The only thing different about 2010 is that my life was about to change forever. I started work with a young girl my age and we became the best of friends, sisters you could say, who by chance was also a Special Olympics athlete. After only a short amount of time I became a volunteer, only a year later I became a coach. I laughed, I cried, I've had the best time of my life. I quickly came to realize that while I helped the Special Olympics athletes, they were helping me. I had new meaning to my life, I had another reason to wake up in the morning. I now had purpose, and I belonged to something much bigger. A family. I thank God every day that he has given me the chance to make a difference in so many lives, and I thank him for giving me the chance to become the friend of the one person who would change my life forever. Tara Power Coach with SOCB Head coach Young Athletes Corner Brook

About Tara Power:
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December 24, 2014 | North America: Illinois

The True Definition of Sport

By Dan Laird

In 1968 my mother, a special education teacher in Illinois, brought four of her kids to the first Special Olympics in Chicago. From there, her participation in Special Olympics grew quickly.View Story In 1968 my mother, a special education teacher in Illinois, brought four of her kids to the first Special Olympics Games in Chicago. From there, her participation in Special Olympics grew quickly. She put together a basketball team and became the first female basketball coach in the state of Illinois. She also started the first co-ed team when she included two girls, not to make a case for equality, but simply because she had two girls who were so good she saw no reason to deny them their chance to shine. In the early days, it was hard to get resources from her own school district, so we became her staff. Mom had me as a scorekeeper, then a referee, then a chaperone for her team. I truly enjoyed my time with her students. They defined joy, teamwork, sportsmanship, and friendship in ways no other group had done at that time or since. I have told many of my friends that if they want to see the true definition of sport – done for the love of the game – watch a Special Olympics event.

About Dan Laird:I have been a volunteer for Special Olympics for many years.
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December 24, 2014 | Latin America: Mexico

Hector Romo Unified Sports Coach

By Paola Martinelli

My participation in Special Olympics has been coaching in different disciplines: athletics, bocce, 5 men team soccer and now unified sports with 20 young athletes of Special education located in Tulancingo de in Bravo State of Hidalgo.View Story My participation in Special Olympics has been coaching in different disciplines: athletics, bocce, 5 men team soccer and now unified sports with 20 young athletes of Special education located in Tulancingo de in Bravo State of Hidalgo. When working with a unified football team, the team allowed me to observe the special youth feel more secure in their participation and actually to be part of team competition. The group integration in unified sports for the young people supported caring among all and resulted in sensitization of them and their families as it was a new experience for both groups.

About Paola Martinelli:National Director of Communications and Public Relations
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December 24, 2014 | Latin America: Mexico

2014 Assistant Trainer Certification for Special Olympics

By Paola Martinelli

Special Olympics Mexico, Baja California Held the Assistant Coach Certification. Aimed at students of the Bachelor of Physical Education program in the Fronteriza Training School of Tijuana for the 3rd and 5th semester, it was attended by over 50 students.View Story Special Olympics Mexico, Baja California Held the Assistant Coach Certification. Aimed at students of the Bachelor of Physical Education program in the Fronteriza Training School of Tijuana for the 3rd and 5th semester, it was attended by over 50 students. The certification was given by Lic. Alejandra Mayela Altamirano Solórzano, Director of Sports Program, Special Olympics Mexico, Baja California. Students attending the event showed great interest in the program, and certification was carried out in the premises of the school.

About Paola Martinelli:National Director of Communications and Marketing
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December 12, 2014 | North America: Canada

Coaching people with disabilities

By John Dove

Hi, my name is John Dove, and for the last six years I have coached people of various ages that have disabilities. I coach them in baseball. I got into coaching in an organization called the Challenger League because my sister has Down syndrome.View Story Hi, my name is John Dove, and for the last six years I have coached people of various ages that have disabilities. I coach them in baseball. I got into coaching in an organization called the Challenger League because my sister has Down syndrome. When she started playing baseball, I helped get her ready to play, so I thought "Hey, why not actually coach?" so I started coaching them every year. I enjoy coaching in the league because at the end of the summer the league has a banquet to reward them for their hard work. At the banquet when I give them the trophies and they smile at me I feel special because i know i made a difference in their lives. I'm going to continue coaching them for as long as i possibly can.

About John Dove :I am a coach in a league called the Challenger League, but I'm not just a coach, I'm a brother to a person with Down syndrome.
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L. Tusak, Special Olympics coach and volunteer

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