Special Olympics Florida

Diane Mason

Swimming Coach, Marion County

I became associated with Special Olympics Florida while teaching at Hillcrest School for Exceptional Students in Ocala. My physical education program basically followed the Special Olympics seasons, but my favorite was always swimming. I became the assistant to the current swimming coach. When he retired, I became the head swimming coach.

My favorite stories concern two female athletes, both swimmers. The first athlete learned to swim very proficiently.  At the county level, she chose the freestyle and the backstroke. Soon, she wanted to learn the breaststroke and ultimately the butterfly.  Although I am not sure of the year, this athlete was chosen to attend the Special Olympics U.S. Games in North Carolina. She learned to perform the butterfly specifically for these games. I was and continue to be very proud of her bravery and persistence in learning this stroke. By the way, she won a silver medal in this event.

My other story concerns a current athlete. This athlete has physical disabilities that make performing strokes difficult, but not impossible. She perseveres every season, doing the best she can. It is my job as her coach to facilitate her skill development that will enable her to perform at a level at which she is successful and proud of her accomplishments.

I continue to coach.  I love to see athletes learning skills, becoming more proficient and self-confident in their performance, and opting for physical activity instead of a sedentary life-style. All athletes want to be “first”, to be the best. Only one athlete can be the winner of that event.  I tell my athletes that all I ever expect of them is that they do the best they can on any given event on any given day and any given time.