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 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.
Share
View less ▲

August 19, 2014 | Africa: Namibia

Growing Unified Sports® Across Africa

By Mr Charles Nyambe

Sports directors from 12 African countries got hands-on experience with Special Olympics Unified Sports at a recent training, laying the groundwork for major growth of the program in Africa over the next three years.View Story Sports directors from 12 African countries got hands-on experience with Special Olympics Unified Sports at a recent training, laying the groundwork for major growth of the program in Africa over the next three years. For the past 15 years Special Olympics has greatly benefited from the generous and steadfast support of Kim Samuel, President of The Samuel Family Foundation. In May, the Samuel Family Foundation together with the Lions Club International, ESPN, and Special Olympics Africa hosted the Unified Sports® training at the Special Olympics Africa region’s headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. Unified Sports joins together people with and without intellectual disabilities to promote social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences. It was inspired by a simple principle; training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding! Sports Directors from 12 African countries were selected to participate in the Unified Sports Training based on the growth potential of their countries.The Sports Directors participated in a 2 day training session on the principles of Unified Sports and were provided with resources to help implement Unified Sports. The training included a practical component which involved the organisation of a Unified football event at a school in Johannesburg. To drive growth of Unified Sports® in their respective countries, the Sports Directors are expected to return home and train head coaches to serve as trainers. Together they are expected to recruit and train 20 coaches every year for the next 3 years resulting in a total of 60 Unified Sports® trainers and a 600 new Unified Coaches in each country by 2016.

About Mr Charles Nyambe :Senior Director, Operations and Program Development
Share
View less ▲

August 08, 2014 | Africa: South Africa

We are so lucky!

By Karin Preston

A whole new world opened up for me, broadened my horizons, expanded my skills, working with the youth made me appreciate their unique sense of humor, gave me insight into their passion for their sport and their caring nature.View Story A whole new world opened up for me, broadened my horizons, expanded my skills, working with the youth made me appreciate their unique sense of humor, gave me insight into their passion for their sport and their caring nature. There are some beautiful hearts in our Lion's Club Leos, our Special Olympics athletes, our Special Olympic South Africa staff and our volunteers. Special Olympics gave Leos, myself and our athletes opportunities we could not even dream of. We are so lucky!

About Karin Preston:I am a a member of the International Lion's Club.
Share
View less ▲

July 12, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Australia

Smiling despite the storm

By jack mcneilly

On the 5th of December 2013 at the Asia Pacific games in Newcastle Australia took on the Philippines.It was a cracking game of football between 2 talented and committed teams.View Story On the 5th of December 2013 at the Asia Pacific games in Newcastle Australia took on the Philippines.It was a cracking game of football between 2 talented and committed teams. The end result was a 1-0 win to the Philippines. After the game I took the Australian players into our opponents rooms, I had good reason to do this. Barely 4 weeks prior to the game the Philippines experienced a natural disaster.Typhoon Haiyan, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded,it devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, on November 8, 2013. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing at least 6,268 people in that country alone. Haiyan is also the strongest storm recorded at landfall, and unofficially the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed. Even four weeks after the Typhoon bodies were still being found. Despite their country being a disaster zone the Philippine players could still smile, clearly my proudest moment as a coach..

About jack mcneilly:Im jack McNeilly coach of the Australia 2 team who took part in the Asia Pacific Games in Newcastle. My football team took on the Philippines after the game i took my boys into the opposition rooms. I told my players about the big storm that had hit the Philippines 4 weeks earlier, we all agreed that we just had to wish them. I'm coaching the Victorian SO football team in October at the national games, I live in Wangaratta and have a wife and two children.
Share
View less ▲

June 02, 2014 | North America: Minnesota

Woodbury Blazing Stars Featured in Hockey Day Minnesota

By Erin Laurents

I want to share this great video of the Woodbury Blazing Stars. The team was featured during ‎Hockey Day Minnesota 2014.View Story I want to share this great video of the Woodbury Blazing Stars. The team was featured during ‎Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 when we invited the East Ridge Girls High School Hockey Team ‎to come and scrimmage our poly hockey teams. Fox Sports North was kind enough to film the ‎event as well as interview some of our athletes. Everyone had a fantastic time! Our athletes ‎enjoyed the opportunity to compete against East Ridge and to share their love of hockey with ‎them. Something that may not have been possible if not for Special Olympics! We are looking ‎forward to a rematch next year!‎‎

About Erin Laurents:I am the Head Coach of the Blazing Stars Special Olympics Team, which is located in ‎Woodbury, Minnesota. I have been with them for three years now and coach poly hockey, ‎softball, and basketball. I also play as a Unified Partner in Flag Football with them as well as ‎mentor two athletes who participate in the Athlete Leadership Programs.
Share
View less ▲

June 02, 2014 | North America: Arizona

Standing Ovation

By Brett Meiners

This photo was taken in Laughlin Nevada at an annual fundraiser for the City of Mesa Bulldogs. Will (left) is one of our athletes.

All of the athletes did amazing during the games. It was electric! I even lost my voice from all of the cheering.View Story I participated in my first State Games last November. The event was held at Vistal Golf Club in Phoenix, AZ. I have to give credit to Greg and Carol Leicht who spearheaded the event. Every detail was executed to the upmost perfection. The opening ceremony was huge. 400 athletes, coaches, parents, volunteers, police, fire, and other military personnel present. You can really feel the excitement during the opening ceremonies. All of the athletes did amazing during the games. It was electric! I even lost my voice from all of the cheering. On the final day of the State Games we were all eating dinner and hearing the awards being called. They asked the PGA Professionals to come onto the stage. We were presented with a plaque for the support and commitment to the growth of Special Olympics. We were surprised with a standing ovation from the crowd. The entire room was on their feet. I looked at all the athletes and parents and almost teared up. It was a very special moment for me.

About Brett Meiners:I am a PGA Golf Professional, City of Mesa Skills Coach, and Unified Partner in the East Valley Friendship League. I have been involved with Special Olympics for about 4 years in both Illinois and Arizona. I have a special place in my heart for every athlete, coach, volunteer, and parent that I have come in contact with. I've been wearing a SOAZ wristband to remind myself of the state games last year and how amazing it was. I have been inspired in so many ways and it's my personal goal to inspire someone and get them involved.
Share
View less ▲

May 27, 2014 | North America: Maryland

Winning without being able to see the finish line.

By Amie Dugan

Sometimes you can win without even being able to see the finish line. Jerry Gatton is a runner. He is determined and eager. In addition to having an intellectual disability, he was born blind.View Story Sometimes you can win without even being able to see the finish line. Jerry Gatton is a runner. He is determined and eager. In addition to having an intellectual disability, he was born blind. “I cannot see nothing at all,” said Jerry. “Everything is dark.” The voice he hears on the track is the steady cadence of his coach Dale Becker. He guides Jerry at practices and competitions. “Oh, I love Special Olympics,” Jerry told us. “I love it with all my heart.” On this steamy spring day, the sun beats down on the track. The sweat drips, but Jerry never quits. Watch this video and you'll see why Jerry is amazing and why the world needs more Jerry Gattons!

About Amie Dugan:Director, Marketing & Communications
Share
View less ▲

Your Donation Matters

Special Olympics transforms athletes’ lives through the joy of sport. Help us make a difference.

DONATE TODAY»

Volunteer Near You

Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!

LEARN MORE»

Follow Us

Help us reach out to one more athlete.

Donate »

Find events near you and learn about volunteer opportunities at one of our 220 worldwide locations.

FIND A LOCATION NEAR YOU »

“Go for the gold, we keep telling our athletes. But it is the volunteers of Special Olympics who walk away with the gold, richer for the experience.”


L. Tusak, Special Olympics coach and volunteer

*

Special Olympics - Become a Fan

Limited-Time Match Offer: Donate Monthly and Help Us Reach More Athletes

Monthly giving is easy and convenient. Donate today and transform lives all year long through the joy of sport.

Special Olympics gets an extra $100 for each new monthly donor.