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
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.”
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
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.View less ▲
November 21, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan
“One of the happiest days of my life”
By Asim Zar
Hello. I have been swimming for last seven years and recently I participated in the Regional & National Games 2014 held by Special Olympics Pakistan. The encouragement by the Coaches & other fellow athletes made me feel important.View Story ▼Hello. I have been swimming for last seven years and recently I participated in the Regional & National Games 2014 held by Special Olympics Pakistan. The encouragement by the Coaches & other fellow athletes made me feel important. After games, team was invited at a club where Regional men’s swimming championship was going on. There were about 300 spectators and Special Olympics Pakistan athletes were invited to swim alongside main stream swimmers.
Seeing so many people, I was so nervous & afraid but instead I wanted to prove myself and this was a golden opportunity for me. I performed my best that day & could hear everyone cheering & shouting and when I got to the finish line we were announced the winners. It was the encouragement I got from all around me. This Gold medal I won, all credit goes to Special Olympics Pakistan & my family for believing me & giving confidence.
I also was given the mike to say a few words. I grab the mike & showed my excitement like never before. I`m proud to be a part of Special Olympics.
About Asim Zar :My name is Asim Zar and I am 27 years old special athlete and currently working in “DANPAK” food factory as a general helper in packaging department.View less ▲
November 21, 2014 | Why I Support Special Olympics
We all share the same feeling
By Kelley Moseley
I have never had a "bad" day with my group. The folks I coach energize me as they do those around them.View Story ▼As a coach, I am so thankful for the smiles and accomplishments and also working through the frustrations when an athlete does not do as well as they hoped.
I have never had a "bad" day with my group.
The folks I coach energize me as they do those around them.
About Kelley Moseley:Golf coach Fort Bend County Texas ARC.View less ▲
November 10, 2014 | North America: Minnesota
I used to use this word. I didn't know better.
I feel bad I used to use this word. I finally saw the light when a close cousin had a son with Down syndrome. I said the word one day around my son and he replied by saying "I no longer use that word."View Story ▼I feel bad I used to use this word. I finally saw the light when a close cousin had a son with Down syndrome. I said the word one day around my son and he replied by saying "I no longer use that word." That really struck home for me. Sometimes our children are the teachers. I'm glad he spoke up. I am really happy to have my cousins son in our family.
About Dave:Just a normal hard working American that smiles when a see a downey person and embrace their innocence.View less ▲
October 30, 2014 | North America: Jamaica
Genesis Academy Joins Special Olympics Jamaica Floorball Training
By Victor L. Brown
Wayne Roberts and Genesis athlete
Genesis Academy in Jamaica is a high school established in 2003 for students with intellectual disabilities/challenges. It recently introduced floorball, a form of indoor hockey, to itsView Story ▼Genesis Academy is a high school established in 2003 for students with intellectual disabilities/challenges; catering for students age 12 to 21, and to students 21 to 25 in its Adult Unit, which provides support in occupation & life skills.
“We are always looking at new activities that include all of our special children, and that allows them to experience what normal children do. Floorball appealed to me because it was a team sport, but more importantly both the able bodied and the physically challenged could participate, so no-one was excluded.
It is a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn a new sport, to be active, and perhaps to find something that they can be good at. We had our first training sessions on October 14th and 15th both our children (a total of 20) and teachers loved it and had a lot of fun, especially our wheel chair students. We are all excited to see how far they can go. Already I’m seeing some potential stars.” Donna Lowe, Principal. "I have been working with the students from Genesis almost from its establishment and provided basic Floor Hockey skills training to students at the Academy for over two (2) years. In fact, Matthew Tarawali (a graduate student) was on the Special Olympics Jamaica Floor Hockey squad to win gold (at the 2009 World Winter Games) and silver (at the 2013 World Games). As the coordinator of the Special Olympics Jamaica Floorball programme, I can say it is great news that Genesis has once again come on board as the first Special Institution to introduce the Sport to students. Training will take place in the first instance twice a week during the regular physical education periods under the oversight of Wayne Roberts, Assistant Coach Youth Development Damion Barrett, Volunteer Coach and Rocky Lindsay Athlete Coach.
About Victor L. Brown:I've been working with Special Olympics Jamaica since 1996. I've been coaching Floor Hockey successfully at World Games and now coaching Floorball.View less ▲
October 06, 2014 | North America: Southern California
Winning the Gold As a Team
By Kari Craig
Winning the Gold for the first time! Southern California Special Olympics Softball Team the Aztecs
Our first tournament was last October. We all came together as a team and decided that the tournament coming up was going to be for a teammate of ours who was very sick in the hospital.View Story ▼Our first softball tournament was last October. Just a few weeks prior to the tournament, we heard some unfortunate news about one of our players, Bobby. He was in the hospital and not doing well. We all came together as a team and decided that the tournament coming up was going to be for our teammate who was in the hospital. We all wanted to show our support for him. We wore armbands, hats, & shirts that said “Bobby”. At the beginning of each game, we huddled in and chanted his name. That day we played two games and ended up winning, bringing us to the Fall games. In December we had the Fall games softball tournament, it was a hot weekend but we ended up winning the entire tournament. It was not an easy win. As a team, we lost our teammate Bobby, who passed away. We lost our head coach, so all the coaches remaining were coaching for the first time. We had a few medical scares, too. But by the end of the season we all felt like family.
About Kari Craig:The Special Olympics came into my life on July 25, 2013 when I started volunteering as a coach for softball Southern California in the fall 2013. With the season coming to a close, I've been reflecting on the past few months and realizing that our team's experience is one that needs to be shared with the world! When I began the process of applying to volunteer, I had no idea what to expect, but I wanted to become more involved with the community and volunteer my hours. That's when a friend told me about Special Olympics; she had a brother who volunteered.
Allie Marquis, the volunteer and program manager contacted me after I submitted my application, and on August 2nd I showed up for our first practice. Our team consisted of 20 players and 7 coaches. I quickly learned that we had players who had been in the league for many years and understood the game better than most of the coaches. We all bonded very quickly and the chemistry on the team was undeniable.View less ▲
October 02, 2014 | North America: Florida
I do not like that word
By Wendi Moon
I have a 13 year old Daughter with Down syndrome. I tell my friends please don't say the R word. When I was going up yes I did say it , but know I can't stand when people say the R word.View Story ▼I have a 13 year old Daughter with Down syndrome. We has been doing Special Olympics since she was 8 years, She does swimming, track and field
and gymnastics. I am the head coach of Gymnastics. I enjoy teaching the athletes and to see what they can achieve. I tell my friends please don't say the R word. When I was going up yes I did say it , but know I can't stand when people say the R word.
About Wendi Moon:I am the head coach for Gymnastic for Special OlympicsView less ▲
About Special Olympics in North America
Your Donation Matters
Special Olympics transforms athletes’ lives through the joy of sport. Help us make a difference.
Volunteer Near You
Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!