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


August 01, 2015 | North America: Southern California

David vs Goliath

By Frank Casias

This photo is Cayman Island(David) vs Great Britain(Goliath). It's all about heart or the 'attempt'.

As I watched a soccer game between Cayman Islands and great Britain I notice that there was a size mis-match between one of the Cayman Island athletes and his England counterpart. He became an instant celebrity.View Story As I watched a soccer game between Cayman Islands and Great Britain I notice that there was a size mis-match between one of the Cayman Island athletes and his England counterpart. He became an instant celebrity. The fans started cheering for the 'little fellow'. Some of us thought it was funny and a few of agreed that he had heart. The brit's were helpful in not blasting the score too high. I enjoyed this game, even in the heat.

About Frank Casias:I am a coach for Special Olympics Southern California, in basketball. We practice out of Pierce College. In the winter I coach Bowling at Matador Lanes. My son has ADHD, he has played basketball, as a center. This past spring he competed in track and field event. HE excelled in the shot putt, and the 4 x 400 relays. I enjoy teach/coach the athletes, it helps them and it helps me become a better human being.
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July 23, 2015 | North America: Florida

"He can't help it coach, he was born like that..."

By Joe Burley

Those were the sage words of wisdom were confided to me by a 40-year-old gentleman with Down syndrome who was a member of my Special Olympics team after witnessing another 8-year-old athlete eat his lunch when not supervised.View Story Those were the sage words of wisdom were confided to me by a 40-year-old gentleman with Down syndrome who was a member of my Special Olympics team after witnessing another 8-year-old athlete eat his lunch when not supervised. Though I anticipated an emotional outburst from my athlete as a result of his lost, beloved hamburger, I received this wonderfully enlightened and compassionate perspective of the needs and challenges of a younger peer. I was blessed to work with adults and children with disabilities in adult day training and residential settings. I cannot minimize the impact these men and women had on myself and my family in addition the life long friendships I acquired. I applaud the "R-word campaign" because contrary to the belief that people with the abilities are the ones in need, it is time to understand that the community around them needs to grow as well

About Joe Burley:I am currently the Athletic Director and Middle School History teacher at Florida Prep Academy. Previously, I worked for twenty years with adults and children with disabilities.
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June 30, 2015 | North America: Wisconsin

That "R" Word...

By Celese Dodge

This is my daughter Jennifer with her team mates at Regional Competition for Track & Field

I grew up with working with challenged children while in grade school and even though it was the "normal" thing to call challenged persons "retarded", I never liked it and would even fight with others who called my fellow classmates 'retarded".View Story I grew up with working with challenged children while in grade school and even though it was the "normal" thing to call challenged persons "retarded", I never liked it and would even fight with others who called my fellow classmates 'retarded". Then I volunteered with challenged chidren in a hospital/home situation and became an even bigger advocate for hating that "R" word. Now I have a challenged daughter that is 38 years old and have fought to get rid of that word all her life. Then I started volunteering with the Special Olympics and have fought more to get rid of that word. I have always hated it and always will. I always correct people and tell them not the r word but challenged or special needs but never the r word please.

About Celese Dodge:I am a 59 year old mother of an awesome challenged adult that is the love my life and in the Special Olympics of Wisconsin. Because of her I became involved in the Special Olympics, became a coach.
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June 16, 2015 | North America: Pennsylvania

Minor League Baseball Manager Trades Himself to Raise Funds for the Special Olympics

By John Wagner

After battling cancer for the past year, I realize my time on this earth is limited. So, I wanted to try something different to make a difference in the world while I can.View Story My name is John Wagner and I'm the manager of the Pittsburg Diamonds professional baseball team in Pittsburg, California. I traded myself on May 31st 2015 to the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League to join Manager Bob Bozzuto's coaching staff. I am trading myself for the funds raised on this page to the Special Olympics. After battling cancer for the past year, I realize my time on this earth is limited. So, I wanted to try something different to make a difference in the world while I can. I posted the rest of my story at the link below.

About John Wagner:Here is my bio
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May 21, 2015 | Asia Pacific: Bharat (India)

Special Olympics Bharat Runners Take Part in World 10K Run

By S.RAVINDRA KUMAR

Special Olympics Bharat athletes Ankush Saha and Santosh Kumar with bib no 609 and 1644 respectively participated in theTCS World10k Run Bengaluru on 15 May 2015.View Story Special Olympics Bharat athletes Ankush Saha and Santosh Kumar with bib no 609 and 1644 respectively participated in theTCS World10k Run Bengaluru on 15 May 2015 and finished 160th out of 7772 with a timing of 44.32 min and 647th out of 7772 with a timing of 51.34 min. Ankush is participating for the second year and Santosh Kumar is participating for the ninth year in a row in the open 10k event where other Special Olympics athletes participated in the Champions with Disability category. The courage and skill displayed by our special athletes in the event is laudable.

About S.RAVINDRA KUMAR:i am father as well as coach of Santosh Kumar. i am also national trainer special olympics bharat i am employed in indian railways as cheif reservation supervisor coaching is my hobby last year 8 athletes of bangalore participated in 10k run including a female athlete.i sincerely beleive given oppurtunities the can compete with anybody avenues for competition in long distance running should be explored to give meaningful competition experience for these athletes.
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May 12, 2015 | North America: New York

Deciding to Coach

By Kyndra Benoit

I work at an ARC home and started a small basketball game for a few of the houses before I found out about special olympics in our area. I got a few of the guys from my house interested and one of the women just went to watch.View Story I work at an ARC home and started a small basketball game for a few of the houses before I found out about Special Olympics in our area. I got a few of the guys from my house interested and one of the women just went to watch. She enjoyed it so much she began playing as well. I was asked to help out since I went every week and I had not played basketball in about 6 years due to medical reasons. I eventually went through the coaches trained and became certified. I absolutely love doing and the guys on my team are so inspiring. I have decided to help out in other sports because working for such a great organization is the most fun thing I can do. I look forward to it every week and am disappointed that it is only once a week. Knowing what it is like to be limited, as I am medically, it is such a great feeling being involved in this.

About Kyndra Benoit:I am a coach for basketball currently. I work at a residential house for Ulster-Greene ARC. I used to play basketball for high school and a little in college before I got sick with an abnormal case of arthritis. I have not been able to play for about 6 years. I am just now being able to play and have been with the Ulster Tigers this season.
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May 11, 2015 | North America: Jamaica

Jamaica's Maroons head for 2nd Canada Cup Tournament

By Victor L Brown SOJ Floorball Coordinator

The Special Olympics Jamaica Maroons will play in a floorball tournament in Canada. It will take place May 15th to 19th in Toronto. The organizers are expecting the usual representation from Europe, the US, and naturally teams from across Canada.View Story The Special Olympics Jamaica Maroons will play in a floorball tournament in Canada. It will take place May 15th to 19th in Toronto at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens). The organizers are expecting the usual representation from Europe, the US, and naturally teams from across Canada. Special Olympics Jamaica is the only squad attending from the Special Olympics North America Region. “Competing in this year’s event is the culmination of a great amount of effort. We’ve been working for a year on the observations from last year’s event and I feel that we can do better this time” said floorball coordinator Victor Brown. The delegation consists of the following athletes: Oshain Daley (goalkeeper), Orion McCaw (Vice-Captain), Sydney Manyan (Captain), Rocky Lindsey, Nigel Davis. Our partners were: Christopher Palmer, Ricardo Frater, Rosene Hewitt, Orseano Benjamin, O’Shain Rhooms, Damion Barrett, David Bromfield, Senior athlete Richard Oates will again attend the referee clinic. He will be joined by Valerie Murphy our Institute of Sport representative (charged with promoting Floorball across the island). They may even get some court time. Dario Müller will assist me with the bench responsibilities. The management off-court activities will be handled by Kimberly Thompson and Rodney Jule. “We’ve come a long way since last year. This a new group of teammates with a different attitude. I’m looking forward to exhibiting what we’ve learnt from the visit of the European players. If we play as best we can’ we’ll do well, ” said Sydney Manyan Team Captain.

About Victor L Brown SOJ Floorball Coordinator:I have been working with Special Olympics Jamaica for 16 years.
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