National Volunteer Week: In the Coaches’ Words

Special Olympics Southern California coaches express what they enjoy about the role, find most rewarding, and more.

Editor’s note: As part of National Volunteer Week, will highlight a handful of volunteers who have made a difference in the lives of Special Olympics Southern California athletes. Today, we are featuring coaches’ quotes from the past year. Check back each day to read about how our volunteers spread acceptance and inclusion throughout local communities.

Every athlete, every team needs a coach to encourage and challenge them to help reach their goals. Special Olympics Southern California athletes are no different.

Special Olympics coaches come in many different forms. In many cases, parents step up and fill those volunteer roles. Others come from previous, wide-ranging athletic backgrounds or simply want to lend a hand in an assistant capacity. There are even SOSC athletes who have transitioned into coaching roles.

Here is an insight into what SOSC coaches enjoy about the role, find most rewarding, and more:

“It’s enjoyable for me to see them in a different light (as competitors), help them move toward their athletic goals. It’s amazing seeing them grow in their skill level.

“I’m invested in seeing them grow.”

Jaime Rutiaga, Santa Barbara County coach who was named floor hockey coach of the season in February

“It’s always fun seeing them out there and playing hard. They’re always very happy, which makes me happy.”

Carly Matera, San Luis Obispo soccer coach 

“It’s like a family to me. I feel comfortable here. I feel like I can be myself, and I love being with my friends and my team.”

Vanessa Barnes, a San Gabriel Valley basketball athlete who transitioned into coaching

“[The athletes] are capable of everything, just like you and me. They need a little help here and there, but that’s it.

“[My daughter] loves it. She was real quiet before and now she’s more outspoken. She met her best friend here with Special Olympics.”

Priscilla Zamora, Western San Bernardino soccer coach

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“Everybody, to a person, who volunteers… they feel like they get more than they give (out of volunteering). If I’ve learned anything in all the years I’ve coached, it’s patience.

“I wouldn’t still be doing it if it wasn’t as much fun and rewarding now, as it was back in 1988 when I started.”

Ava Carberry, Westside coach

“The best thing [about coaching] is the athletes and their enthusiasm, and how they treat each other.”

Karen Farberow, Long Beach swim coach

“Seeing them grow together as a team, supporting each other … and understanding that concept of how to be a team. There’s no quit in them. They always keep going.”

Kenny Flores, Vista (San Diego County) Falcons basketball coach

“I’ve had athletes and parents come to me and say it really does make a difference when you make it just like every other sport and just as competitive.”

Christina Kirkman, swim coach for Northern Santa Barbara County (Santa Maria)

“I’ve been working with special needs for over eight years. So it’s just the passion, the love. I like to coach. I love sports. So when I was asked to be a coach, it was no questions asked. It was a no-brainer. I enjoy people, I love people. I love seeing people smile. I love helping. So this is right up my alley. Simply put, I love it.”

Cameron Woods, Carson basketball, softball and track and field coach

“I look forward to each team every year and the relationships we build with each other and watching athletes grow.”

Cristian Ortiz, L.A. Galaxy Unified and LAFC Special Olympics soccer coach

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