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Community Impact

Coach Edna on Weightlifting Bar Basics

Coach Edna stands with ten athletes dressed in weightlifting uniforms holding up a sign that says American Muscle Powerlifting, Long Island, Special Olympics, New York.
Coach Edna, on the far right, with the powerlifting team she coaches.

Coaches (184,672 Certified)
Increase between 2020 & 2021
Certified Coaches to Athlete Ratio (3,131,611 Atheltes)

Coach Edna Fletcher knows about the power of sport firsthand from her days playing basketball. As a black female athlete, she has also felt the sting of exclusion. For example, when she asked that more resources, like weight training, be added to her basketball team’s practices, she was laughed off the court.

Now, Coach Edna is a leader in the inclusion movement using her experiences, skills and interests as a Special Olympics New York (SONY) coach. Whichever sport her son Daniel participates in, Coach Edna coaches—that’s eight sports so far! She currently coaches the American Muscle powerlifting team that consists of three female athletes and six male ranging in age from 16 to 35. In some sports, basketball and powerlifting, she has continued her training to become a referee or official.

As a parent, coach or fan, it all comes back to the athletes as competitors and individuals according Coach Edna.

“I live by this motto: There is no such thing as disability, rather varying degrees of abilities.”
Coach Edna Fletcher, Special Olympics New York Coach
Coach Edna working with an athlete on squats.
Coach Edna working with an athlete on squats.

For Coach Edna, that means beginning with the basics. As a SONY powerlifting coach, she helps each new team member learn how to approach the bar. For the grip, she has them practice placing the bar in the middle of their palms before grasping it tight. “The bar is central to the three powerlifting disciplines I coach: the squat, deadlift and bench press.” She feels that using the 45-pound bar without additional weights is a great way to build technique and strength.

For the standing lifts like squats and deadlifts, she coaches athletes to stand with their legs shoulder-width apart. “This gives them a strong base for balance.” But for bench presses, she has them tuck their feet under the bench a bit because “the instinct is to push up through your feet even if you are laying down. That’s a good thing.” Elbow and extension angles are also vital.

Coach Edna says there is another skill that has nothing to do with muscles. “Listening to and following the judges’ commands takes practice. It is important because the Head Judge has a frontal view of the athlete and ensures that the proper weights have been loaded onto the bar correctly. Then they give the command to lift.”

Coach Edna says anyone interested in becoming a Special Olympics coach should know that the athletes are eager to learn. “Meet them where they are and make sure they leave with a smile.” Robyn Armando, Vice President Marketing & Community Engagement, says Coach Edna’s approach is much appreciated. “She is a staple in the SONY organization. She uses tough love, but she adores every one of her athletes and has the biggest heart.”

*Statistics from the Special Olympics 2021 Global Reach Report


Coaches teach the skills, attitude, values and spirit that define a true athlete. They are role models and character-builders both on and off the field of play. Special Olympics coaches go even further—they support athletes with intellectual disabilities to discover their own strengths and abilities. They encourage them and challenge them to build upon those strengths and improve every day.

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