Athlete Coach Highlight: Nate Gerharz

November 6, 2013

Since 34-four-year old Nate Gerharz started participating in Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) nearly 20 years ago, he has competed at the State level in aquatics, bocce, bowling, and basketball. Today, he is also certified to teach nearly all of these sports.

For Gerharz, becoming a coach was the natural next step. When he was younger, while his mother coached her Agency’s basketball skills team, he would often tag along to basketball practice to help fetch balls and set up equipment.  

“Looking back, what I was actually doing was training to be a coach!” said Gerharz, who currently is training 20 of his fellow athletes in basketball skills.

His mother taught him the key ingredients needed to become a good coach and this was reinforced by the mentors who trained him for the 2006 USA Games and 1999 World Games.


From planning practices and making attendance sheets to writing notes to athletes and families, Gerharz has cultivated many new skills as a coach. As he developed new responsibilities, Gerharz said he expected his new role would come with a few challenges.

“Sometimes it was hard for older athletes to listen to younger people,” said Gerharz. “I knew I had to earn the respect of the athletes I was working with. I did this by using [phrases] like ‘good job’ and ‘you are really improving’ [to encourage them].” 


Gerharz said his participation in the Athlete Leadership Program, Athlete Input Council and Global Messengers was the perfect compliment to coaching since it helped him gain confidence in speaking to his team’s athletes, families and volunteers. 

He said he now feels respected by his team and the fact his families trust his judgment, helps him believe in himself. Gerharz said the joy that comes from coaching is unmatched.  

“I coach so I can share the gift of joy and happiness in sports with others. When I watch an athlete that I have worked with finally make a basket, my heart swells,” said Gerharz. “That is my pat on the back!”

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