Special Olympics Southern California coaches, regardless of sport, often come away with similar thoughts when they reflect upon their experience and interactions with the athletes.
To paraphrase: You get back what you put in – and more.
Lauren Clarke, who helped lead a USC group of coaches in the Los Angeles area, noted the affection she received from a contingent of track athletes who took part in their first official Special Olympics competition earlier this spring at the Pomona Area Games in Chino Hills.
The coach-athlete relationships quickly turned into friendships.
“I got so much more from the athletes,” she said. “That connection I made with those athletes is really unique, and I don’t think I’d get that anywhere other than Special Olympics.”
For Lauren Kawahara, a basketball coach for a Long Beach Rams team that earned a gold medal at Summer Games, her lessons to the players pale in comparison to the “life-changing” experience she receives.
“They teach me more than, I think, I teach them. They teach me more about giving back,” she said.
“It really changes your perspective in a good way.”
The athletes thrive off the idea of teamwork and “being in the moment.” As a coach, Kawahara added, the sight of watching an athlete apply the instruction in one-hour practices and develop week after week is “the best feeling in the world.”
“When you actually see them take what you’ve practiced for months, and then get excited about doing it,” she said. “Whether they made the basket or made the correct pass, but just excited for them to do it in a game and hear everybody cheer, it just warms your heart.”
Special Olympics Southern California’s fall season is rapidly approaching. Learn more about how to get involved and become a coach in your area.
Inside the SOSC is a blog written by staff member Tracy McDannald. It is a more feature-style approach to looking inside what makes Special Olympics Southern California so unique, so special. It is meant to explore the people and their stories. One word at a time.