LONG BEACH, Calif. – Last week we began a new series on WeAreSOSC.org called #SundaySpotlight. Fittingly, our spotlight was the Special Olympics Southern California athletes, specifically their competitive spirit at the 2017 Summer Games.
This week we stay focused on our athletes, but our #SundaySpotlight turns to the Athlete Leadership Programs that allow athletes to explore opportunities for greater participation in the Special Olympics movement beyond sports training and competition. The Athlete Leadership Programs help athletes as coaches, officials, team captains, spokespeople, Board and committee members and so much more.
Dustin Plunkett, an SOSC athlete for more than 20 years, is a full-time staff member with Special Olympics Southern California. He is the manager of the Athlete Leadership program and there is no one better than Plunkett to speak to the power of the Athlete Leadership Program.
“The Athlete Leadership Program helps athletes find their voice,” said Plunkett, who in his free time is also an analyst for the ESPN Networks and a team captain for a San Gabriel Valley softball team selected to play in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. “The Leadership Program gives athletes an opportunity to take a more meaningful role within Special Olympics. I would not be in the position I am in today – as a fulltime employee with SOSC, as an ESPN analyst, as a team captain – without the Athlete Leadership Program.”
The program has helped Special Olympics athletes go on to many roles, including those currently on the SOSC Board of Directors. Current board members who are also athletes include Debi Anderson, Bill Martell, Matthew Raymundi and Caley Versfelt. They are just a small representation of the Athlete Leadership Program.
Here are some of the ways the program helps athletes to “find their voice.”
Global Messengers are Special Olympics athletes, trained in public speaking, who help spread the message and vision of the movement as well as the benefits they have gained by participating in Special Olympics. As leaders and message-bearers of the movement, Global Messengers communicate the powerful declarations of hope, acceptance, and courage of Special Olympics athletes around the world.
“What Special Olympics does for us is gives us self-esteem. It taught me about myself and how I can accomplish my dreams,” said Global Messenger Michelle Core. “People say I can’t do certain things because I have an intellectual disability but that’s not true.”
Learn more about Global Messengers at SOSC.org.
Athlete Input Councils
The athletes are empowered to voice their opinions and recommend a course of action about various facets of the year-round sports training and athletic competition program. The meetings provide a forum to report to other athletes with the latest happening in their area, address important issues, and gain leadership and training experience.
The athletes are empowered to take a more active role in the organization by helping out at events in a volunteer role. Whether its checking in volunteers, working in an information booth, taking photos or a variety of other roles, athletes gain experience in a different aspect of the organization.
Athletes who would like to teach the skills they have acquired over years in the program to fellow athletes and train them in Global Messenger training or governance training. All ALPs Trainers must complete a “Train the Trainer” session before coming a trainer.
“People think that just because he or she is handicapped that they will not be able to do certain things,” said Global Messenger Rudy Almeida. “But that is not true. We can do things. Simply put, we can.”
A Global Messenger Speech Coach assists a Global Messenger in writing and preparing for an inspiring and impactful mission-focused message tailored to the audience to whom they are speaking.
Both athletes and non-athletes can get involved in the Athlete Leadership Program! CLICK HERE to get started.