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Community Impact

Chris Meservey Uses a Teach-First Approach to Coaching

For over three decades, Chris Meservey has shared his blissfulness with everyone he meets within Special Olympics Nevada and beyond. By career choice, he teaches public speaking at the high school level but stemming from his love of sports, he coaches basketball and swimming, saying, "I've been coaching for about 30 years. I've coached little kids up to adults, but only about nine years with Special Olympics."

Perhaps carrying on from his teaching background, Meservey has a teach-first coaching approach. Believing athletes benefit more when coaches emphasize things they excel at rather than yelling or making them run. "I'm a big teacher, I like to teach how to play correctly, how to swim correctly and then motivate," he says.

A Special Olympics swimming athlete stands with his dad at a competition. They have their arms around each other and are smiling at the camera.
Chris (left) standing with his son, Kyle, at a Special Olympics Nevada swim meet.

To make sure that the coaching approach is successful, Meservey has to know what he's talking about. "My favorite sport to play and coach is basketball with swimming a close second," he says. Even though he has a favorite sport, you'd never be able to tell based on the amount of work he does to ensure he's providing the best coaching possible in all sports.

He achieved a certification from the Michael Phelps Foundation to improve his ability to coach swimming. As a swimmer in high school and college, Meservey has a lot of respect for Phelps saying he is "the man" and dubs him as "the greatest ever." Given the opportunity through Special Olympics, Meservey got to meet Phelps, take his training course, and learn how he teaches. "I used to own a swim school where I taught a lot of kids how to swim. With my knowledge and his knowledge coming together, it really allowed me to better understand how to teach," he says of the experience.

That approach gives him the incredible opportunity to continue having a positive and influential relationship with all his athletes. "I have always stayed close with my athletes over the years," Meservey says with a gigantic smile on his face, detailing what it's like to stay up to date with everyone. "I've been coaching 30 years and I still run into kids I coached in middle school and they're always friendly to me, they always ask how I'm doing so I guess that philosophy builds a relationship that lasts a long time.”

A group of Special Olympics athletes and coaches smile for the camera.
Chris (second row, left with tan hat) and the SO Nevada delegation at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.

"I want them to leave me feeling a sense of accomplishment, being able to have the skills they need to do their sport or be successful in life on their own," Meservey says.

It's a sentiment felt by not only the athletes, but also members of the community and those on staff with Special Olympics Nevada. "His positivity is also evident in regard to his coaching philosophy, and he is noted by coaches and parents alike as a ‘SONV Champion’," says Terrence Thornton, Special Olympics Nevada Executive Director. “Even with a busy personal schedule, he always makes time for the athletes, and goes above and beyond the call of regular coach duties," he then adds.

This attitude is something Meservey's fellow coaches also recognize. When the basketball season for Special Olympics Nevada was in jeopardy because of loss of practice space, Meservey sprang into action.

As the Centennial High School basketball coach, he negotiated practice time, free of charge for Special Olympics Nevada. "Even with his busy schedule, we could always depend on Chris to be at the school to unlock and later close up the gyms after every practice. He goes above and beyond the call and gives 100% to everything he is involved in," says Bill and Dian Rohret, a pair of Special Olympics Nevada basketball and golf coaches, about the ordeal.

A high school basketball team poses for a team photo.
When not coaching Special Olympics, Chris (back row, far left) is the coach at Centennial High School.

One of the reasons Meservey is always ready to leap into action for Special Olympics is because of the connection with his son. Kyle, now 27, was introduced to Special Olympics when he turned 18. “We’d always heard about Special Olympics, but we never got involved,” Meservey says, adding that he coached Kyle in high school swimming and thought “maybe now is when we can join Special Olympics.”

When Kyle joined the swim team, he would tell the current coaches everyday “my dad's a coach and he would love to coach.” When the regional swim meet approached, Meservey was in attendance. Unable to contain his excitement for his son, he says, “I tried to sit in the stands, but I couldn't, so I went and asked if I could volunteer. I started volunteering, helping athletes get where they needed to be.” That moment soon led to Meservey being asked to be the head coach.

“That's how I got into coaching Special Olympics and swimming was the first sport,” he says, continuing with, “I just loved it.”

In addition to coaching, Meservey is a Health Messenger coach for his son. Through that role, the pair work together to spread the importance of staying hydrated and keeping fit. He believes in, "staying physically fit and tries to impart that value and its importance to all of the athletes he engages," it reads in his nomination form.

As a mentor for Special Olympics Nevada’sathlete leaders, Meservey uses his background in communications to help athletes improve their presentation and speech-writing skills.

A Special Olympics athlete sits on a bike and smiles at the camera. Next to him are two people, also smiling at the camera.
Chris (left) shows a ton of pride in his son's accomplishments, posing for a picture with his son (center) at a cycling event.

During the interview for this story, Meservey could not stop smiling as he shared stories about his experiences with Special Olympics. He takes so much pride in seeing his athletes be successful in sports and in life. And he continues to preach the teach-first philosophy sending this message to those who might want to coach in the future.

Meservey encourages new coaches to "really get to know them (athletes) because relationships are the biggest thing." For any level of coaching, getting to know the athlete and understanding their situation helps a coach better understand their needs. Showing love to the athletes goes a long way.

And to that notion, regardless of the athlete Meservey is coaching, he tries to connect with each one of them. He says, “one of my things is I love making people laugh and smile and that's what I love doing with my athletes.” It’s a friendly reminder of the charismatic personality Meservey takes through life and it’s why he’s been so successful.

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