Special Olympics Cayman Islands is gearing up to resume training in September and is looking for dedicated people to come on board as coaches and volunteers. Special Olympics is a world-wide volunteer sport-based training programme that gives persons of all ages, with intellectual disabilities, the opportunity to train for and participate in competitions.
The sporting experience that Special Olympics brings to local athletes not only promotes physical activity, but it also builds individual confidence, promotes teamwork and leadership qualities, increases the social experience and builds awareness to the public through community activities.
Local SOCI programmes consist of athletics, aquatics, bocce, basketball, football and MATP (a programme designed for the more severely involved athletes). Athletics, aquatics and bocce start their training schedule in September and run through June. Basketball begins in late September and runs through December and football and MATP usually occur through the Lighthouse Physical Education programme.
At the moment, SOCI works with athletes from the Lighthouse School and the Sunrise Centre, as well as others who are employed and still want to participate in athletic events. At this time, training occurs once or twice a week depending on the sport.
The training programmes climax with the National Games, which takes place in June. But throughout the training year, there are other competitions that occur on and off the island.
SOCI is looking for people with a sports interest and background. Among the athletes who can benefit are Andrew Smilley, a top local swimmer who has excelled abroad.
SOCI will be conducting a coaches training clinic the first weekend in September and this encompasses training techniques for the athletes and results in the designation as a certified Special Olympics coach.
However, being a certified coach is not the only way in which people can serve, as there are many different roles to fill in the organisation. The current coaches and board members have many years of experience between them, but, along with the athletes, they would certainly welcome some “new blood” to the programme.
Working with these athletes is some of the most rewarding volunteer work and is almost addictive once started; the benefits and goodwill generated flow in both directions. SOCI welcomes all volunteers ranging from community service programme coordinators in the high schools to those offering general assistance and sports experts who are leaders in their fields.
While the aim is to recruit new volunteers for all programmes, SOCI is specifically seeking volunteers with experience in athletics who can help expand the current offering, which at this point consists of weekly training sessions at the Truman Bodden Complex and primarily focuses on running events.
The incumbent coaches and volunteers for this programme are looking to expand, not only to increase the number of athletes but also to broaden the number of events to include more field activities.
The plan is to increase the programme to two afternoons per week – one session would be for younger athletes after school at the Lighthouse School, while the other would be afternoons at the Sports Complex with the established athletes.
The ultimate goal is have a steady flow of younger athletes who are well grounded in the basics and will then progress to the more advanced track programme.