Project Good: Zionsville coach encourages players

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By Brad Thompson

The data suggests that the vast majority of kids who play team sports in youth leagues will never be pros, or even get a college scholarship for sports.

Indeed, the majority will not play on their high school team or an intense travel team. Kids’ sports are about fun, fitness and sportsmanship. And that’s true of every kid’s league, including the Special Olympics. The vast majority of Special Olympic athletes will not compete in a statewide or national SO tournament.

Coaching Special Olympic athletes is essentially the same as coaching any youth league. The emphasis is on learning a little, getting along with others, supporting others, fitness and, most of all, fun.

Because Special Olympic athletes do have health conditions, typically, there is some training that goes along with being a coach. The Special Olympics Indiana Coach Education Program makes it clear that the athlete’s safety is the top priority.

Once that is assured, the program directs coaches to ensure that they are not just teaching the game, but teaching sportsmanship. Coaches also are taught to give athletes an awareness of their own worth, ability, courage and capacity to grow and improve.

There are different levels of certification based on the amount of training a coach receives, with Level I, for example, requiring the coach to take online courses in Protective Behaviors Training and Concussion Awareness Training.

Steve Bullington of Zionsville coaches four sports in the Special Olympics program, including basketball in the winter. His son, Jackson, typically plays on his teams, but it’s clear that Bullington loves with all the kids. Having coached for seven years, he knows many of the kids throughout the league by name and seems to know what each of them does during Christmas break. Knowing the kids means he is able to individually call them out for their successes and engage them on a personal level.

If you are interested in coaching Special Olympics, contact Terri Nofke at soboonecounty@gmail.com.

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