Scott Lazenby wears a number of different hats, most important of all being a SWAT Crisis Negotiator Training Officer. But he also cherishes his involvement in Special Olympics through the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
When he’s not working, Scott spends his time coaching swimming and bowling in Kern County. The involvement stems from early-life experiences through his mother, a swim coach who would also bring her son along to her lessons for Special Education students.
“I have never had any perspective about people with intellectual disabilities other than they should be treated like any other person I would encounter in society – with respect, compassion, and as equals,” Scott said.
The 43-year-old has seen that compassion returned when he needed it most.
While dealing with his own personal adversity, Scott had to step away from his coaching duties for several weeks. He chose not to disclose the details to his fellow coaches on the staff. Self-esteem, confidence and sense of self-worth “were pretty much at an all-time low.”
But that first practice back quickly lifted Scott’s spirits.
“As I walked down the pool deck toward the lanes where the athletes were swimming, I was greeted by shouts of ‘Coach Scooter, welcome back!’ and ‘Hi, Coach Scott!’ from athletes and parents,” he said. “Several athletes got out of the pool and hugged me while telling me that they missed me while others, of course, gave me some lip for missing practices (which gave me a taste of my own medicine).
“I cannot begin to explain how emotional I got when that happened because I realized at that moment that the athletes were as important to me, like a family member, as I was to them. Regardless of my personal situation, for those several minutes, I felt whole again and it was because of the compassion and love of the athletes I am honored to coach and call my friends.”
That also brings Scott to the most rewarding aspect his volunteer efforts: the first and last five minutes of each practice. The initial reaction of spotting their fellow peers and coaches, and the hugs exchanged at the end of each session, bring as much satisfaction as any competition.
A close second, however, is the moment Scott can see “that imaginary light bulb go on” when one of his instructions sticks.
“When you are trying to teach or demonstrate something and it finally ‘clicks’ with them, causing the athlete to experience the improvement,” Scott said.
“My interaction with the athletes has been wonderful. With swimming, I am in the water with the athletes – racing them, swimming alongside them, and using whatever means necessary to assist them with stroke development and confidence-building techniques to assure them that they CAN do it and until they can, I will be right there with them the entire time.”