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


April 06, 2015 | North America: Jamaica

Die Mobiliar support Jamaica's Maroons with court uniforms

By Victor L. Brown

Dario Müller presented Special Olympics Jamaica Maroons Unified Floorball Club with a donation of two sets of court uniforms from Swiss based Die Mobiliar Indoor Sports at the final training session with the visiting European Floorball players on March 18th.View Story Dario Müller presented Special Olympics Jamaica Maroons Unified Floorball Club with a donation of two sets of court uniforms from Swiss based Die Mobiliar Indoor Sports at the final training session with the visiting European Floorball players on March 18th. “The resources were part of the Jamaica Floorball Association sponsored Bilingual Exchange Programme providing language and Floorball training in schools. Over the six (6) months that they were here, the Maroons benefited from their expertise at our weekly training sessions. Both athletes and coaches have learnt a lot from their interaction through drills and friendly matches. In addition to this wonderful gift of court uniforms for which we are grateful we also received a manual with all the drills that were shown to us” The Maroons are preparing for the 2015 Canada Cup in Toronto May 15 to 19.

About Victor L. Brown:have been working with SOJ since 1996
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April 01, 2015 | North America: Michigan

Three Generations Make Coaching a Family Tradition

By Jaclyn Heikkinen

Bill Dombrowski (bottom right) and granddaughter Madison (top right) coach the Grand Rapids Central Buffaloes.

Bill Dombrowski started coaching the Grand Rapids Central Buffaloes more than 40 years ago. Through the years he has coached around a couple hundred basketball athletes, and created a family tradition of coaching that is now three generations strong.View Story Bill Dombrowski started coaching the Grand Rapids Central Buffaloes more than 40 years ago. Through the years he has coached around a couple hundred basketball athletes, and created a family tradition of coaching that is now three generations strong. Bill had help coaching from his son, 40-year-old Michael Dombrowski, and now his granddaughter 14-year-old Madison Dombrowski is coaching alongside him. "Family has always been a very important part of coaching," said Bill. "We love it and it's always been an important part of our life." Madison started by going to practices before she actually became a coach. "I loved being around them, they were so happy all the time and it made me smile," said Madison. "I loved being there." Watching the athletes improve is the most rewarding part of being a coach to Madison. "Some of them came and they didn't know a single thing about basketball and they've improved so much since then, now they're scoring baskets and being tough."

About Jaclyn Heikkinen:Jaclyn Heikkinen is a public relations and marketing intern at Special Olympics Michigan.
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March 29, 2015 | North America: Maryland

Never Say The R-Word

By Brianna Nelson

I have a horse rider that i teach her name is gabbi and shes is beautiful! as she says!!View Story I have a horse rider that i teach her name is gabbi and shes is beautiful! as she says!!

About Brianna Nelson:i am a Great person and never will ever say that word
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March 11, 2015 | North America: Florida

Gulf Breeze High Girls Lacrosse Hosts end the R word at Best Buddies Night

By Laura Pattison

The Gulf Breeze Girls Lacrosse team is trying to Spread the word about ending the R word! At the local high school lacrosse game this week they are hosting the Best Buddies Night.View Story The Gulf Breeze Girls Lacrosse team is trying to Spread the word about ending the R word! At the local high school lacrosse game this week they are hosting the Best Buddies Night for any local chapters to attend and ask people to help end the use of this word! Come see a great game but most importantly let us all remember our words can hurt others. Game Time: Wednesday March 11th at GBHS Dolphin Stadium 6 pm.

About Laura Pattison:Head Lacrosse Coach and ESE aide and Best Buddies supporter
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March 09, 2015 | North America: Illinois

Equality

By Rebecca Franks

Working with individuals with disabilities is an eye opening experience. Hearing people use the r-word really disappoints me. Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean they are incapable.View Story Working with individuals with disabilities is an eye opening experience. Hearing people use the r-word really disappoints me. Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean they are incapable. They are just as much as capable of love, hard work, and compassion. I have spread my story to my friends and family in hopes that they too will understand the hurt that comes along with such misunderstood words. I will continue to spread the work to try and eliminate the r-word from being used in such a nonchalant way for people with disabilities and those without.

About Rebecca Franks:I recently joined the organization of Park Lawn in 2015 and I am proud to say that I have a job so worth while. I love having the opportunity to help others and making them feel happy and unique.
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March 09, 2015 | North America: Wisconsin

it's a beautiful thing!

By Joan k

As a volunteer for Special Olympics it makes me smile to see this. I have a shirt I wear once a week that says "spread the word to end the word." I was inspired to be a coach at the age of 9.View Story As a volunteer for Special Olympics it makes me smile to see this. I have a shirt I wear once a week that says "spread the word to end the word." I was inspired to be a coach at the age of 9. My cousin has autism and I just want to support her and every one else who is cognitively disabled. Thank you to everyone who is devoted to this great cause!

About Joan k:I am 16, I have been working with Special Olympics in different ways since I was 9. I played unified 1 year and ever since I have helped with bocce, bowling, volleyball and basketball.
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March 05, 2015 | North America: Ohio

The Angel That Doesn't Wear Any Wings

By Bailee Jesse

Dylan, my angel.

I have been touched by the life of a child with Down syndrome. Although he is often labeled with being a child of special needs, he is much more than that to me. The way that he lives his life has inspired me to be a better person.View Story I have been touched by the life of a child with Down syndrome. Although he is often labeled with being a child of special needs, he is much more than that to me. The way that he lives his life every day & the way that he has inspired me to be a better person is amazing beyond belief. He always exceeds my expectations & although he may be difficult at times, I wouldn't want to spend my time with anyone else. We are currently 3 hours apart while I am away at school & my biggest fear about college was that he would forget about me. But now I realize how silly that was. When someone means so much to you, there is no way that the relationship you have with them will just disappear. Dylan & I have a very special bond & I know that I wouldn't be who I am today without his guidance. I encourage others to spread the word to end the word because even though there are people who have different abilities than others it doesn't make them any less of a person.

About Bailee Jesse:I am currently a college student studying Inclusive Early Childhood Education & I have been so positively impacted by children of special needs that I started an org that raises money for these kids.
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