“Athletes have come up to me after winning a gold medal saying that it was the greatest day of their life! I think I can speak for all Special Olympics coaches in saying that we get a whole lot more than we give,” said Coach Rick Wilson, a retired naval officer from Edgerton who has coached Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) athletes for more than 14 years.
Wilson witnessed the transformative power and joy of sports first-hand watching his 16 year old son compete in bowling more than a decade ago. Since then, he has coached bowling, basketball skills, refereed bocce, served on the management team and watched his son become a state bowling champion in 2001! Wilson has also been instrumental in helping the bowling team increase its players.
“We had a small group of about 40 bowlers,” he said. “[Now] the program has grown to about 120 bowlers.”
This June, WKOW of Madison awarded Wilson with the Jefferson Award for going above and beyond the call of duty for public service, a recognition he humbly accepted. (Click here to watch the PSA).
“There are thousands of Special Olympics volunteers out there,” he said. “I will accept this award on behalf of Special Olympics coaches everywhere.”
“We’re so proud of him and glad he’s getting the recognition he deserves. He’s not just a bowling coach, he does so many other things for Special Olympics,” said SOWI Agency manager, Ed Hale.
According to Wilson, it’s the athletes who inspire him to continue coaching year after year.
“Special Olympics athletes are an amazing group,” he said. “When they win, they are overjoyed, and if they don't win, they hug and share the joy of their teammate who did win.”