“I melted when one of the athletes called me coach. I’ve always wanted to be called coach,” said Katie Mangin, a Client Services Coordinator for Fox Sports Wisconsin who co-coached for her first time at the Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) State Fall Sports Tournament.
Pride and joy. These are two sentiments echoed by SOWI coaches every time they blow their whistles, huddle with the team, and hand out high-fives.
According to Ken Kuemmerlein, a marketing professional who has coached basketball, volleyball, track, and softball for two years, coaches have the ability to change their athletes’ lives. By working directly with the athlete in sport-specific training, the coach helps the athlete not only improve their skills, but their confidence as well.
“The world tells them they can’t do this or that, but it’s the power of sports that shows them they can do anything,” said Kuemmerlein. “We all want to feel normal—Special Olympics does that for [our athletes].”
What’s more, the gift of coaching is reciprocal in nature, with coaches saying they benefit as much as the athletes.
“They bring out the best in me and that’s why I love coaching,” Mangin said. “They change your life so quickly.”
“This is easily the best part of my week,” agreed Kuemmerlein.
In addition to having fun and meeting new people, coaching Special Olympics athletes also gives volunteers a new perspective on the sports industry.
“They teach me more than I teach them, like patience, and that winning isn’t everything. I had forgotten,” said Mangin. “They remind me what sports are all about. You’re raised to win. [In Special Olympics], you teach them how to be their best.”
SOWI offers training schools for coaches in the 17 different Olympics-type sports available throughout the five sporting seasons.
To become a certified coach, volunteers must be registered as a Class A Volunteer, attend a sport-specific Certified Training School, and complete a minimum of 10 hours of practical coaching experience with Special Olympics athletes.