From June 1st to June 3rd, I completed my role as Assistant Coach for Special Olympics Swimming at the Special Olympics Pennsylvania State Summer Games. It was one of the hardest things I have done for Special Olympics, but it was also one of the best.
Area M, the Special Olympics region of PA where I live, brought 5 coaches and 18 swimmers to the Summer Games. Some of them were athletes that I have been coaching since January and it was so exciting to see them compete and win! Others were athletes I just met on Thursday, but we quickly became friends.
We went early Thursday morning and took a school bus to Penn State. I was sitting next to an athlete who was really kind and friendly. He runs his own private eye and matchmaking business, so on the trip there he told me all about them. We were on the same bus as the Softball team and I found out that many of the swimmers and softball players have been at the summer games for over 20 years!
When we got to Penn State, we quickly checked into dormitories, and then it was time for the first day of competition. We were lucky to have beautiful days the whole time we were there.
That night it was the opening ceremony and one of the swimmers from Area M had been chosen to light the torch! It was so exciting because she was one of the athletes I had been training since January. Everyone in the M section cheered really loudly for her as she lit the torch with some police officers and the games were officially open!
The next two days were filled with a lot of swimming, getting to know the athletes really well, early mornings, late nights, the athletic dance, SportsFest, a trip to Creamery (for ice cream!), And then it was time for all of us to go home.
I was exhausted in the end, but I would do it again. I really liked getting to know the athletes. It was the most distant I had been from the actual operations, but the closest I had been to athletes at a state game. I definitely made a lot of good friends and I wish them all good luck with their fall sports!
Here is a video I made to summarize my experience!