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


May 05, 2016 | North America: Pennsylvania

Bucks County Special Olympics athletes compete in Broad Street Run

By Timothy Damiani

Athletes showing off their medals they received after Broad Street Run 10 mile race

We had 4 athletes compete in the 2016 Broad Street Run with 40,000 other runners. Not only did they run it but they did it fast.View Story We had 4 athletes compete in the 2016 Broad Street Run with 40,000 other runners. Not only did they run it but they did it fast. Chris Griffith completed the 10 mile run with a time of 1:17:40, followed by his brother Erik Griffith with a time of 1:23:42. Next up was Harrison Bell with a time of 1:26:39 and Dominique O'Hanlon completed the course of 1:44:51. Dominique could have run it faster but she was making sure Coach Tim was okay. These athletes have been training hard for this and they always run their best at any distance they compete in. Their drive dedication and effort are truly a great inspiration to us all.

About Timothy Damiani:Coach for Bucks County Special Olympics with Athletics and Long Distance Running & Walking.
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April 06, 2016 | North America: Bahamas

Special Olympics Bahamas hosts 3rd Annual Mixed Team Bowling Tournament

By Gilbert Williams

Special Olympics Bahamas recently held its 3rd annual Mixed Team Bowling Tournament at Mario's Bowling, Nassau. The tournament serves as a mini fund raiser as well as an awareness initiative.View Story Special Olympics Bahamas recently held its 3rd annual Mixed Team Bowling Tournament at Mario's Bowling, Nassau. The tournament serves as a mini fund raiser as well as an awareness initiative. This years list of entrants included teams from local banks, insurance companies, government ministries and others. This did not phase the Special Olympics "Strike Force" however, as they beat out four other teams in their division to claim the top spot. The bowling program is still celebrating a successful performance at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, returning home with a bronze medal in the Unified Team competition, gold in the Unified Mixed doubles and a gold medal in one of its singles competition.

About Gilbert Williams:Joined Special Olympics Bahamas in 2010 as a volunteer soccer coach. Later, also took on responsibility as a bowling coach. Became Sports & Training Director in 2013. Attended LA2015 as HOD for 36 member Team Bahamas.
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March 23, 2016 | North America: Michigan

Walled Lake Teams Win Silver, Gold

By Laura Smith

Walled lake girls waiting to compete: Veronica, Callie and Emma

Both teams from the Walled Lake School District, the Miracles and the Mustangs, came home with medalsView Story Both teams from the Walled Lake School District, the Miracles and the Mustangs, came home with medals on Saturday. The Miracles won the gold medal in the final seconds of the game, eking out their win by a single point. The groups supported each, played hard and enjoyed the team spirit. Great job and a special thanks to our commander in chief, Coach Sandy Jenkins, for making our team strong and involved!

About Laura Smith:My 11-year-old daughter Emma means the world to both her dad and I. She has developed self esteem, confidence and understanding of life's relationships due to her participation in Special Olympics. We are blessed
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March 14, 2016 | North America: Florida

Celebrating the Achievement of One of Our Athletes

By Linda Altner

One of our athletes, Joe DePompa, has taken the Coaches' Certification exam and passed!View Story I am one of the Coaches of The Rising Stars, a Special Olympics' volleyball team. One of our athletes, Joe DePompa, has taken the Coaches' Certification exam and passed. He is a Special Olympics athlete and this is an achievement worth celebrating. He has an excellent knowledge of the game and is encouraging toward other athletes. We are proud of his achievement which came only with his hard work and encouragement from his coaches to believe in himself.

About Linda Altner:I am a retired teacher who has volunteered several years of my time, along with my husband Sid, working with athletes in Special Olympics volleyball and bowling. I have two sons, one is a Special Olympics athlete. In addition to Special Olympics, I have also organized many social outings for our Rising Star athletes to enhance their life experiences and create additional social opportunities for them. I have enjoyed bringing happiness into their lives, and my son's, through positive experiences and encouraging achievement.
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March 07, 2016 | North America: Ohio

Older sister

By George Teetzel

I have an older sister. She was born with downs. I had only met her twice because her mother put her up for adoption because she was a "monster" for being born with a birth defect.View Story I have an older sister. She was born with Downs. I had only met her twice because her mother put her up for adoption because she was a "monster" for being born with a birth defect. I haven't used the R word since I was 8, because I never knew what downs was until dad told me. I only met her 2 times. But I love her dearly. If I hear people use the word, I ask politely not to use it b.c it's offensive. These people aren't stupid, they're a blessing from God and they see life in a way that normal people.never could. They appreciate everything for even the smallest bit of joy. If we could see like they do, the world would be so much better. I've avoided the word for 15 yrs now. If I can, you can.

About George Teetzel:Sports coach and soldier. Striving to become a nurse. Supporting the cause when I can
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March 02, 2016 | North America: Illinois

Pontiac Township High School 2016 Spread the Word to End the Word Video: Good Feelings

By Laura Baumgardner

Pontiac Township High School has made another awesome video that is ENTIRELY student-made. It is called GOOD FEELINGS and features an originalView Story Pontiac Township High School has made another awesome video to follow the previous videos featured on www.r-word.org and Spread the Word to End the Word (Smile, My Son, You Abuse the Word, and I'm Eric). This year's video is ENTIRELY student-made. It is called GOOD FEELINGS and features an original song written for the video. We hope you like it!

About Laura Baumgardner:I am a Life Skills Special Education teacher and a Special Olympics coach. I am passionate about EVERYONE being treated with RESPECT!
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February 29, 2016 | North America: Arizona

1990 Summer Games at UCLA

By George Frost

I was a volleyball coach for Yuba-Sutter Special Olympics in 1990 before leaving the United States Air Force. I had the pleasure of taking a team down to UCLA.View Story I was a volleyball coach for Yuba-Sutter Special Olympics in 1990 before leaving the United States Air Force. I had the pleasure of taking a team down to UCLA where I met Olympian Rayford Johnson and professional football player Todd Christensen from the Oakland Raiders. There were thousands of athletes there and our team wore bright red hats so we could spot them in the swarming crowd. All in all it was one of the best experiences in my life, but the moment that cemented it into my memory forever is during an award ceremony when a young lady, who could not have been over five feet tall, won a gold medal in floor exercise in gymnastics. She was so ecstatic that she ran across the gym floor and leaped into Todd Christensen's arms. True to his profession as an All-Pro tight end, Todd caught the gymnast who then planted a kiss on his cheek. I will never forget it and the feeling I went away with as we returned back home to Yuba Sutter later that day.

About George Frost:I was a volleyball coach back in 1988-1992 for the Yuba-Sutter Special Olympics. I left the Air Force in December 1992 after 14 years of service. Now I am a special education teacher in Apache Junction, AZ. I am married with one adult son name Skylar (age 20) and an adopted daughter, Tegan age 16 who was born in China in 2000. My wife Amy is a nurse who now lives in Oregon (I will join her at the end of the school year). The story I am sending you is absolutely true and this experience was life changing for me.
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