In sports, success is often judged by an individual’s or team’s win record, but we believe that everyone is a winner at Special Olympics Florida. Athletes who train hard for competition and come away with a gold medal or trophy should be given the credit they are due, but we must also celebrate that success doesn’t necessarily mean taking home a win for everyone.
Although we encourage and strive for success on the playing field, we know that there are more important goals. At Special Olympics Florida, we all learn from each other. Coaches learn how to push athletes to compete to the best of their ability. Partners (people without intellectual disabilities) work side by side with athletes to learn the game and push each other.
Often, sportsmanship is ignored in coaching and competing, but in Special Olympics some may feel that sportsmanship is expressed to the point of a flaw because it occurs so often during competition. There have been times I have witnessed athletes helping each other cross the finish line, pick each other up after a fall, and you can always count on high fives at the awards podium.
Speaking with volunteers, I hear nothing but praise about the accomplishments they see during the day at a competition. The volunteers’ joy can be attributed to the examples of sportsmanship and the true spirit for the game expressed by the athletes. It is rare to find an organization where its participants’ desire and love can truly be seen by their actions that come from their heart.
Unfortunately, a win/loss record tends to define the worth of a team or individual, but I believe that true success is so much more — it’s the lessons learned and greatest of all, the memories made. You can see these lessons in every role within Special Olympics, from the volunteer who left the competition with a new outlook on life, the partner who learned patience, the coach who learned how to help an athlete reach a new personal best, and so much more.
Every time I volunteer, coach, or compete within Special Olympics, I leave the day with a bigger heart and a smile on my face. So, to say everyone is a winner is the truest statement about Special Olympics for not only the athletes, but that EVERYRONE involved is touched in some way.
Written by: Phyllis Crain, County Director, Special Olympics Florida – Pasco County