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Community Impact

Rising Star Coaches Recognized by Special Olympics North America

Throughout the North America Region, Special Olympics coaches are trying to reach a common goal. While winning is the reason we all play sports, spreading and promoting inclusion is at the forefront of the organization. Three coaches are being celebrated for their fast rise in the world of coaching.

Oliver Storseth, Nia Andricopoulos, and Isabel Batres were awarded the Special Olympics North America Outstanding Coach - Rising Star award, showcasing their efforts and impact on the community and teams they coach. The award given annually, handed out by Special Olympics North America, honors and recognizes coaches for their contributions and efforts to enhance the lives of Special Olympics athletes.

Andricopoulos and Batres were recognized for coaching community-based athletes and Storseth for coaching sports in schools.

“The Special Olympics North America Rising Star Coach of the Year is an exceptional honor, and one that I never thought I would ever win,” Storseth, who coaches basketball for Special Olympics Nova Scotia, says. “In the past months, I have been overwhelmed with support from friends, family, and my community.”

A group of 13 people pose for a photo outside. They are wearing matching red shirts and blue shorts and have medals around their necks.
Oliver Storseth (front row, far left) has been coaching Special Olympics Nova Scotia athletes for 5 years and feels his involvement has transformed him.

Through the process, Storseth was blown away by how many people value and appreciate the work and time he has put into his work with Special Olympics over the last five years. It’s common in sports to want the recognition and fame that comes with coaching, but for Storseth, it’s the opposite. He loves the work he’s doing and the lives he’s changing, and he enjoys doing it on a small scale.

“As I continue my journey with Special Olympics, I hope to continue to inspire individuals from small communities with big dreams,” Storseth says. “This award will hopefully inspire other people to see the importance of breaking down barriers, so individuals of all abilities can live in an equitable and just society.”

Batres has moved around a lot but has always found a way to stay connected with Special Olympics whether it be in Pennsylvania, Utah, or Arizona. “It's difficult to capture in words how honored I am for this recognition from Special Olympics North America,” Batres says. “Simply put, it means everything to me. This award and my accomplishments as a coach reflect my passion for sports, my lifelong dedication to learning, and the positive impact I'm so grateful to have had on the athletes.”

As a coach, she takes much pride in the growth of her athletes. During Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Multi-Sports Training Camp, athletes demonstrated improvements in their respective 50-meter and 100-meter dash times.

“During their week at Sports Camp, my fellow coaches and I address common weaknesses in sprinting, such as running form and slowing down before the finish line,” Batres says. “We provide constructive criticism to help the athletes understand how they can improve. By the end of only one week in training, many of our athletes reduce their times by seconds – which may seem small but is a significant improvement in their performance.”

A group of 11 people pose for a photo. They are standing outside in front of a large bus and have their arms raised in celebration. They are wearing matching blue basketball uniforms and gold medals.
Isabel Batres (far left) has coached Special Olympics athletes in several locations, but her basketball team winning gold at the Special Olympics State Games is a highlight.

While in Arizona, Batres’s team, the Tucson Desert Dogs improved much-needed communication. “My fellow coaches and I recognize the importance of teamwork in basketball, and we noticed that our team would sometimes struggle with this,” Batres says. “Thus, we fostered team cohesion during practices. We would focus on exercises fostering communication and teamwork, such as passing the basketball when someone is open and using our voice to signal our teammates.” And because they did this, the team earned the goal medal at the 2023 Special Olympics Arizona State Basketball Games.

As she is set to complete graduate school at the University of Utah, she plans to stay involved with Special Olympics and continue to grow her involvement.

A Special Olympics athlete stands on a basketball court. He's giving his coach (wearing a yellow shirt) a high five.
Nia Andricopoulos (right) brings the same passion and high standards to Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams as found in college and varsity sports.

Andricopoulos is the visionary founder and dedicated president of the Regis University Special Olympics Club. It’s a club that was strategically designed under her leadership to serve as a secure and welcoming space for individuals and students with intellectual disabilities, ensuring they can engage fully in various activities. Andricopoulos has set the bar high in her community, having formed a relationship with the Regis University athletic director. She tries to model her Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams after the varsity teams on campus.

“Coaching for Special Olympics is a top priority for me in college because of the joy it brings me and so many others,” she says. “Every week we all get together as friends to laugh, enjoy and lifelong relationships. Coaching a college team is a unique opportunity to bring together community athletes and college partners together and create a college environment for everyone.”

Nominated for her coaching in flag football, she also coaches Unified basketball and recently had the opportunity to coach her team in Madison, Wisconsin for the NIRSA Basketball Championships. Although Regis University lost, they had the chance to play at the highest level outside of the USA and World Games.

Three coaches, all new to the movement of inclusion, but with incredibly bright futures. Their common purpose, to make an impact on their communities and spread inclusion to their peers, will ensure that the Inclusion Revolution continues for years to come.

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