Coach and Chair, Athlete Leadership, Broward County
One of my favorite Special Olympics moments happened fairly recently. A couple years ago, I had a young athlete with Down Syndrome join our swim team. Her parents looked fearful; she had taken swimming lessons, but had never competed in swimming and this was her first Special Olympics sport she would’ve participated in. Needless to say, the first practice didn’t go so well.
We begged. We pleaded. Her parents promised treats and toys, but to avail. She absolutely refused to swim. One of our coaches encouraged the parents not to give up…and they didn’t. They kept bringing her to practice; sometimes, she would swim. When she did swim, I was right there to tell her how awesome she was and to cheer her and her teammates on!
Each practice became a little easier, so when county games came along, we were very optimistic that she would do well. When her division was called, she absolutely refused to swim. After a tremendous amount of encouragement from several volunteers and coaches, she got in the pool and swam with her heat. These are the moments that I live for!
I’ve been volunteering with Special Olympics for about 15 years and I’m a certified coach in 5 sports. I’ve met some incredible people and have had some incredible experiences over the years, all because of Special Olympics. What keeps me coming back isn’t just the sheer joy of working and mentoring the athletes, but the determination and bravery they have when they are trying a sport for the first time or something that isn’t necessarily in their comfort zone.
I’ve recently become the Chairperson for Athlete Leadership in Broward County, and I couldn’t be more excited! I absolutely look forward to guiding Special Olympics athletes to not only advocate for themselves, but to set an example for future athletes.