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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


November 10, 2014 | North America: Minnesota

I used to use this word. I didn't know better.

By Dave

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.
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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.
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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.
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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 Olympics
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September 11, 2014 | North America: Maryland

Andy Miyares, Swimming with Olympic History

By PHIL WETZLER (HEAD COACH, BALTIMORE CITY AQUATICS TEAM)

In 2008, as head coach of the Baltimore City Special Olympics Maryland swim team, I brought to Baltimore a talented swimmer with Down syndrome, who owned, at that time, over 15 world records for "special needs" athletes.View Story In 2008, as head coach of the Baltimore City Special Olympics Maryland swim team, I brought to Baltimore a talented swimmer with Down syndrome, who owned, at that time, over 15 world records for "special needs" athletes. He was there to swim an exhibition with world and Olympic champions Michael Phelps and Katie Hoff. The athlete is Andy Miyares, who I coached during the Special Olympics World Games in China in 2007. The has been held event during one of our swim practices, at Meadowbrook, "our swim home," for the past nine years. The crowd, our swim team of 48 athletes, and Michael, Katie, and their coach, Bob Bowman, were ecstatic, as Andy Miyares performed, so perfectly,with Michael and Katie. This was, truly, one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, seeing the joy and satisfaction on everyone’s face, and understanding just how meaningful it was and continues to be, in the ongoing competitive, wholesome life of Andy Miyares and his entire family. Andy will never forget that day, nor will I.

About PHIL WETZLER (HEAD COACH, BALTIMORE CITY AQUATICS TEAM):Committed to serving Special Olympics. I coached aquatics in China and Greece world games, 2007 and 2011. Graduated Duke University. Varsity swimming/lacrosse. U.S. Marine Corps. Married 54 years to Marni/2sons/7grandsons.
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September 11, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Singapore

46 Years of Empowerment “Training for Sports Performance” Program

By Kester Edwards

Opening Ceremonies

The Special Olympics Training For Sports Performance program is a Special Olympics sports development program that provides sports-specific coaches education in Open Water Swimming, Beach and Indoor Volleyball.View Story The Special Olympics Training For Sports Performance (TFSP) program is a Special Olympics sports development program that provides sports-specific coaches education in Open Water Swimming, Beach and Indoor Volleyball. There was an emphasis to focused on the following sports science topics; sports injury prevention, sports nutrition and sports psychology. That was held September 28 to 31, 2014 with Special Olympics Singapore. The TFSP drives our global goal to have athletes train multiple times per week! We pilot two new tools that is call Special Olympics Athlete Development Model (ADM) is a support plan designed to empower each of our athletes so they can experience the joy of reaching their full potential. The model promotes motor and skill development as well as health and fitness, while preparing athletes for competition at all levels. The Coach Development Model (CDM) and provide a framework for all SO Programs to certify coaches and recognizes specific coach qualifications. Following the CDM, SO Programs recruit and train coaches to fit into the SOI Athlete Development Model (ADM). Coaches trained under the CDM support a lifelong sport experience for our SO athletes along their different sports development paths. The CDM model also offers guidance and new ideas on how best to work with local sports governing bodies to train and certify coaches. The CDM delivers optimum sports experiences to athletes at all levels and trains coaches to provide excellent instruction, advice, and motivation. It also allows us to develop our unique Unified Sports coaches. The seminar participants came various Programs from around Asia Pacific to Singapore, from as far away as New Zealand, China, Beijing, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Korea and China, Fuzhou. The education was provided through classroom training and discussion, conducted in the morning, and afternoon through Pool and Ocean Open Water Swimming training, Beach Volleyball.

About Kester Edwards:Kester Edwards work in the Sport Department at Special Olympics Inc.
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August 19, 2014 | Europe Eurasia: Israel

In Israel, Mothers Made Time for Children with Intellectual Disabilities After Leaving Air Raid Shelters

By Robi Dolev

Special Olympics Israel mothers and 120 families that have children with special needs living in the Gaza Strip war zone came to a summer vacation in the north of the country.View Story Special Olympics Israel mothers and 120 families that have children with special needs living in the Gaza Strip war zone came to a summer vacation in the north of the country. We offered to make art workshops. When I asked the Special Olympics families who was willing to volunteer, the response was overwhelming. We included Miki, the bocce coach, who requested to join us to play bocce. We eight mothers set off on Wednesday with the bocce coach. We operated through stations, and many people came to join in the activities. The families spent hours with us, crafting, laughing and simply enjoying. We saw mutual assistance between siblings: What love did they pile upon their special brother/sisters. Eight-year-old Noya fell in love with 3-year-old Meir, a remarkable child with Down syndrome. “Can I take him home as a gift?” she asked his mother. Meir’s mother responded with “Such a gift from heaven comes, but once in a lifetime, and I am not letting him go!” It was an unforgettable experience for all.

About Robi Dolev:My name is Tali, I am the family coordinator in Israel, i encourage each time the family members to share stories.
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L. Tusak, Special Olympics coach and volunteer

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