Volunteer Week: A Passion for Basketball Leads to Lifelong Friends

By Rachel Bialkin

The pandemic has suspended many things in our lives, but one thing it couldn’t stop is Scott Norton’s passion for Special Olympics, his love for the athletes he coaches, and his determination.

Since 1999, Scott Norton has volunteered as a basketball coach for Special Olympics Southern California in the Santa Clarita area. What started as a way to stay involved with a sport he loves turned into a life-long passion that has given him way more than he has given.

When COVID-19 swept across the country, he was missing the personal interactions he had with Special Olympics athletes. That is when his determination and dedication kicked in, and he worked to create a virtual community to keep his team engaged. His goal was to give back to the athletes who have given so much to him. He wanted to ensure they had social interaction with their friends, stayed active, and didn’t feel alone.

Over the past year, Scott has kept his team engaged by signing them up for Special Olympics Southern California’s virtual programming. The team has worked out with other Special Olympics athletes through a virtual fitness club, participated in the Move Across California event, and are competing in the Virtual Sports Leagues. They learned tips on how to eat healthier through virtual chats with nutritionists and professional athletes. And they found ways to calm their stress and anxiety during mindfulness meet-ups. Along with participating in SOSC’s programming, Scott has hosted “hangouts” over Zoom and created a Facebook Group so the team can communicate easily with each other.

Even after more than two decades with SOSC, Scott never gets tired of seeing how much joy his athletes get out of competing and participating year-after-year. It’s important to Scott to push the athletes to be their best, and he finds it so rewarding to see the players’ improvements. Scott hopes that his athletes continue to be confident, to try new things, and to learn and grow through any obstacles that they may face.

Scott is looking forward to the day when in-person programming can resume, but if he’s learned one thing from coaching Special Olympics athletes, it is that you can overcome anything with your friends.

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