By Kimberly Villa
La Shanda Shipp’s inspiration to become a coach for Special Olympics began with a promise to her parents that if she became her brother, Tyrone’s, guardian, she would be sure to continue the activities that he was involved in. After being the supportive sister and accompanying him to practices, she realized that she had much “more to give” and would be much happier on the field with the athletes. That was ten years ago.
Since she decided to make the move to coaching, she has been certified in almost every sport offered by SOSC but has focused on Athletics and Floor Hockey. Her involvement has impacted athletes in Pomona Valley where she volunteers and will expand to the athletes on the SOSC 2022 USA Games Athletics team as their Head Coach. The past two years have been difficult for coaches like La Shanda who want to make sure that athletes are staying connected but also remaining healthy and active. La Shanda has been coaching athletes virtually where they work out together and set challenges focused on exercise and making healthy eating choices. After the USA Games team was announced, virtual meetings began monthly to prepare the athletes for their June competition in Florida. The team has recently begun meeting in person but has continued their virtual meetings and challenges. “I am staying connected to the athletes, making sure they’re still exercising, eating right, staying hydrated, and getting their rest,” said La Shanda. These athletes will undoubtedly be in great shape as they travel to compete.
La Shanda was able to attend Special Olympics World Games 2019 in Abu Dhabi to cheer for her brother-a goal that he was ecstatic to reach. Her proudest moment was when her brother, competing in the 200M run, saw himself on the jumbotron, which made him work harder and win the gold medal in the race with his best time ever. This was more than just a gold medal in the 200M run. In 2012, Tyrone weighed over 300 pounds. He needed a change for his health. With his sister’s support and encouragement, he took baby steps in a process that included eating better and walking, starting with short distances. In time, he lost 150 pounds, as La Shanda says, “he lost half a person!” and began walking longer distances. He participated in “speed walking” 800M and eventually told his sister/coach that he was ready to run again, which eventually led to his gold medal in Dubai.
La Shanda is very humble about the impact that she has had on her brother’s life. “My brother has become a leader. He is kindhearted …I like who he has become over the years by being part of [Special Olympics],” she said. There is no doubt that his sister has had a huge impact on his life and the lives of the athletes who have been fortunate to have her coach them. As she prepares for the USA Games, she is looking forward to being the Athletics Head Coach and working with the athletes and other coaches on Team SOSC, but especially grateful to be able to experience it with her brother, on the field, coaching him.
What would La Shanda say to those thinking about joining the special ranks of “Volunteer” at Special Olympics Southern California?
“Just come out one time and you will see the reward. The smiles, the appreciation from the athletes knowing we’ve been a part of helping the athletes reach their goals…it means so much more than just watching from the sidelines. It’s something you will take with you forever!”
Visit https://www.sosc.org/volunteer for more information on how you can get involved with Special Olympics.