Search

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.

Become a Coach

To become a coach, get in touch with Special Olympics near you.

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.

We partner with sports organizations to provide the highest and most up-to-date level of coaching knowledge. 

Coaching education helps our coaches recognize each athlete’s potential. It also comes into play as we increase training and competition. Those opportunities help each athlete can reach -- or exceed -- their personal best.

Special Olympics focuses on our athletes. 

Our coaches aim high and take pride in their athletes' achievements, which can often be life-changing moments. 


Stories About Our Coaches


March 21, 2017 | Europe Eurasia: Estonia

Poetry in Motion from the Sidelines

By Henry Rull

Taiga Laur (crouching on one knee) is showing how the players should’ve moved in a certain situation on the tactics board. (Photo: Henry Rull)

Even though Taiga Laur, the head coach of Estonia’s floorball team, is coaching athletes at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, she’s as versatile as a Swiss army knife: a teacher, a composer a poet and a volunteer. The latter has required a lot of sacrifices. Asked if she harbouView Story Even though Taiga Laur, the head coach of Estonia’s floorball team, is coaching athletes at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, she’s as versatile as a Swiss army knife: a teacher, a composer a poet and a volunteer. The latter has required a lot of sacrifices. "I've run around like a hamster on a training wheel all the time. I’ve given classes at school during the day, coached athletes in the evening and been to competitions in the weekends. "I don’t have a very busy family life, but I’ve never felt lonely. I’ve got a lot of friends and the Special Olympics athletes are so genuine. They’re not fake: when they’re angry, they’re angry. When they’re happy, they’re really happy."

About Henry Rull:Henry Rull covers the Special Olympics World Winter Games as a member of the AIPS Young Reporters Programme, which is funded by the European Union's Erasmus+ programme.
Share
View less ▲

March 21, 2017 | Europe Eurasia: Austria

Seeing Is Believing

By Nance Larsen

To Erika Kalin, victory feels like "heaven"

Through the roar of the crowd at Ramsau am Dachstein/WM Stadium, Erika Kalin is laser-focused. The cheering fans, 5-people deep give her the adrenaline she needs to push to the finish, but it is the sound of one particular voice that Kalin seeks - her long-time training guide Reinhart Shultz.View Story Through the roar of the crowd at Ramsau am Dachstein/WM Stadium, Erika Kalin is laser-focused. The cheering fans, 5-people deep give her the adrenaline she needs to push to the finish, but it is the sound of one particular voice that Kalin seeks - her long-time training guide Reinhart Shultz. Kalin is visually impaired and it is the calm, steady encouragement of Schultz that helped guide the Swiss athlete to a spectacular gold-medal finish in the 5klm Classic at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Crossing the line with arms raised to the sky, she was exuberant - it was apparent to the hundreds of fans in attendance that they had just witnessed incredible athleticism. "My heart was pounding hard but it set a rhythm for my body and I felt like I was flying across the snow," says Kalin. "The feeling was incredible, amazing, like heaven!"  The bond between Kailin and Schultz is one of trust, safety and comfort. The pair trains together several times a week. As her guide during competition, Schultz is allowed to use only his voice to to help Kalin navigate the track, skiing the course simultaneously and allowing his words to move her through obstacles, turns and other competitors. It is the sound and inflections in Shcultz' voice that trigger Kalin's athleticism to respond to the vocal instructions. Schultz is not allowed to physically provide any assistance to Kalin during a race. "Prior to a race, the nuances of the track are studied to design the best competition plan. During a race, I know that Reinhart is looking ahead and relaying every aspect of the track so the I can confidently and aggressively attack the course." Kailin trains with her coaches and teammates on snow and practices the normal training methods one might find on any cross country track, as well as regular conditioning such as mountain biking and running year-round. To support these efforts and also improve Kalin's race times, Schultz has introduced some unique training tools into the mix. He uses photos and images to provide reference points and strong visualizations that set in motion Kalin ability to relate to certain commands during competitions. In addition to her Gold-Medal finish in the 5klm Classic, Kalin took silver in the 10klm Freestyle earlier in the day. She will compete in the team event later in the week.  Post World Games, Kalin plans to compete in the Switzerland National Championship Alpine Skiing race.

About Nance Larsen:I am a volunteer with the Marketing/Communications team in Austria for World Games.
Share
View less ▲

March 16, 2017 | Europe Eurasia: Spain

Julen Lopetegui unveiled as New Global Ambassador

By Ecem Acar

Special Olympics’ Spain President Miguel Sagarra, Spanish National Football Coach Julen Lopetegui and Special Olympics Europe Eurasia Regional President and Managing Director David Evangelista

Spanish National Football Coach Julen Lopetegui was unveiled as the newest Global Ambassador for Special Olympics at a press conference at the Spanish Federation of Football in Madrid.View Story Spanish National Football Coach Julen Lopetegui was unveiled as the newest Global Ambassador for Special Olympics at a press conference at the Spanish Federation of Football in Madrid. Lopetegui said he is “committed to supporting the inspiring athletes of Special Olympics who represent the very best of sports.” As part of his new role, Lopetegui will lend his support, knowledge, and passion to developing the game for athletes with intellectual disabilities across Spain and Europe. He will also help to drive awareness for Unified Sports and Healthy Athletes. Lopetegui’s appointment comes at an exciting time for Special Olympics Spain as its 52 athletes prepare to compete at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. Special Olympics Europe Eurasia President David Evangelista said, “With Julen’s support, we will reach even more people with intellectual disabilities and offer them the chance to play sport, get healthy and join in creating a more unified world for all.”

About Ecem Acar:Communications and Marketing Manager, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia
Share
View less ▲

March 07, 2017 | SOI General: Headquarters

Celebrating the Women of Special Olympics

By Kate McKenna

Special Olympics CEO Mary Davis marches with female athletes from Russia in the 2016 Pre-Games held in Austria.

Women in Special Olympics history have inspired, created and driven change, starting with our founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, nearly 50 years ago.View Story Women in Special Olympics history have inspired, created and driven change, starting with our founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, nearly 50 years ago. Today, 5.3 million athletes and Unified Sports teammates compete in Special Olympics. Almost 40 percent are women. This year, nearly 2,700 athletes are putting their best to the test at the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria, set for 14-25 March. More than 800 of these athletes are female -- the most ever to compete at a World Winter Games! Today's Special Olympics movement is led by Mary Davis of Ireland, the first Special Olympics CEO from outside the U.S. Mary started as a volunteer coach with Special Olympics Ireland after college. She has since served in a series of leadership roles, dedicating nearly 40 years of her life to the Special Olympics movement. For International Women's Day (U.N.) and Women's History Month (U.S.), we invite you to learn more about women's crucial and wide-ranging roles in Special Olympics. See slideshow at link below.

About Kate McKenna:Editorial and Multimedia Director, Special Olympics
Share
View less ▲

March 06, 2017 | North America: North Carolina

Sycamore Creek

By Pam Hoke

Part of our school commercial

We are celebrating Spread the Word to End the Word for the whole month of March.View Story We are celebrating Spread the Word to End the Word for the whole month of March. Staff purchased STWTETW t shirts and will wear them on Wednesdays for the month of March. Our big event is March 14th in our Courtyard. About 400 4th and 5th graders will take a pledge together and sign the banner. We made school commercial about our event that the whole school has seen a few times. We have 1200+ students.

About Pam Hoke: I teach a self contained classroom for students on the Autism Spectrum Disorder for grades 3-5th grade.
Share
View less ▲

March 06, 2017 | Asia Pacific: Nippon (Japan)

Kana, you can do it!

By Miho Higano

Figure skater Kana Murota went to the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2013 and tried to win a gold medal. She's trying again.View Story Kana Murota, an athlete of figure skating, had a ticket to the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2013 and tried to win a gold medal. But she made some mistakes in the long program and it became a bitter experience. She disappointed for a while even after coming back to Japan but shifted focus on National Winter Games and dedicated herself to the daily training. She has been changed. Her expression of skating has much improved in comparison to 4 years ago, which becomes more attractive by deeply listening to the music. In addition to this, her artistic ability has a positive impact for the improvement. She often goes to art museums to appreciate the beautiful paintings. Those backgrounds make her emotionally rich. For World Games, she selected the music and composed the choreography by herself and, as I told in above, her skating has been highly improved but she is wondering if her skating is acceptable or not. She just needs a bit of confidence. I believe that we are able to see her beautiful skating on the ice in Austria.

About Miho Higano:I am a figure skating coach of Special Olympics Nippon delegation.
Share
View less ▲

March 06, 2017 | Europe Eurasia: Hellas (Greece)

A Coach's Perspective: Competing in World Winter Games

By Popi Andreadou, a coach of the Greek Special Olympics ski team.

Special Olympics Greece at the 2013 World Winter Games in PyeongChang

Our extraordinary team was brought together in the mountains of Greece to start a fascinating journey to the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria.View Story Our story begins in 2010, at the mountains of Northern Greece and specifically at the National Ski Resort of Seli. It was there where our extraordinary team was brought together, in order to start a fascinating journey, all the way to the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria. Along with the other two coaches of the team, Andreas Grammatikopoulos and Maria Kontoni, we have the incredible joy and luck to coach 10 amazing athletes - 5 alpine and 5 cross-country skiers. Our skiers know, what team work and the spirit of sports means. Throughout the years, they have given us some incredible lessons on fraternity, courage and the incomparable joy of effort. They have lived together, they have shared good and bad times but have always remained united. 19-year-old Thodoris Ilkos, is one of the 10 athletes who will compete in the Austria 2017 Winter World Games. Thodoris is very active and sociable. He loves telling jokes, playing computer games, reading books and comics, and of course skiing!

About Popi Andreadou, a coach of the Greek Special Olympics ski team.:Popi Andreadou, a coach of the Greek Special Olympics ski team.
Share
View less ▲