How should a Special Olympic Coach be evaluated? In standard sports it is based on how well the athlete or team does in competition. In Special Olympics, the growth and development as well as success of the gymnast is important. The coach, the parents, and others close to the athlete will know “success” by observing months of pre, during, and post season attitude and physical development of the gymnast. An athlete that learns about their body, faces challenges and conquers them, has fun and is physically active all season, but forgets their routine, freezes at a meet, or faces additional physical challenges and can never score a “perfect 10 (20), is as successful as those who do. Coaches should evaluate themselves using this criteria.
Every Special Olympic coach I have met would tell you that they get 10 times more out of coaching than they put into it. It can change their lives in unexpected ways by being part of an extended “family” with friendships that can last a lifetime. It can be delightful to watch the athlete’s growth and independence. Special Olympic athletes may learn a little differently and need more repetition, but they are all individuals that benefit from a coach’s care, guidance, and acceptance.
At the conclusion of a Training School, the coaches should have a clear understanding of:
Training schools may be just beginner (Levels A & I) or in later years (Levels A, B, & I) or Intermediate or Advanced clinics (Levels II & III & later level IV).
The classroom session would show the videos of the compulsories, go through the SSP, discuss season planning and safety. In the gym, a demonstration warm up is done followed by sessions on all of the apparatus. Finally, athletes are brought in, so the coaches could practice teaching & spotting the skills on the apparatus and floor exercise.
“Model States” were the norm in the early 80’s. Each sport had 4 states that as the National Sport Director, you would travel to (often 2x). At the first meeting, we would hold a Training session & help recruit Gymnastic Coaches for Special Olympics. At the 2nd trip, I would attend their Chapter Games for Gymnastics (often in the summer games) and help and or evaluate the competition.
Around 1985, Train the Trainers with regional training schools were developed. Participants went back to their Chapters/States and proceeded to hold training schools for more coaches. In addition to the above, in the Regional/National Training schools, discussion included:
After 1985 on the 3-day trainings, Rhythmic gymnastics was added on the 3rd day.
In 1990, the Coaches Training Program Plan included 3 tiers for coaches’ certification within a Chapter. Tier 1 was the Local/Area training for certification and competition implementation. Tier 2 was Sectional, and Tier 3 was Chapter/Statewide. Coaches needed to attend a 2-hour General Session as well as Sport Specific Certification and have current CPR certification.
In June of 1993, Sports Education and Training included 4 building blocks. The General Session was #1. Block #2 included a Training School & 10-hour practicum for sport specific Volunteer Coaches. Block #3 was a Principles of Coaching General session which included Application of coaching Philosophy, Sports Psychology, Physical Preparation and Nutrition. Block #4 was sport specific and included advanced training Principles, etc. in a training school with an additional 10 hr. practicum. Training School instructors’ guides were implemented in Gymnastics.
Occasionally, Special Olympics Gymnastics offered Dance Clinics to coaches/athletes to improve their floor exercise or rhythmic routines.
In the 90’s we added a segment to training schools on how to incorporate Unified Gymnastics as partner competitions and practices.
Education started with the first Sports Skill Guide for Artistic Gymnastics in 1983. The first Sports Directors Guide for gymnastics was published in 1991 and presented at coaches’ clinics. It included information about the rules, recruiting coaches, running training schools and competitions. In 1993 the revised Artistic Gymnastics Sports Skill Program was released and was over 200 pages. Jim Stephenson illustrated it & it included an overview, goals & objectives, modifications and Adaptations, assessment, teaching skills, skill sequences & analysis, teaching suggestions, record keeping, rules and judging, and terminology.
It included the compulsory routines for the 6 men’s events and the 4 women’s events in the 3 levels of compulsories.
Education for Coaches was ongoing in the 90’s with the SOI Coaches Quarterly and the Gymnastics Newsletters sent to chapters an to coaches on our email list. This continues in the 2000’s. The Sports Skill Guides were printed books to help the coaches with teaching skills appropriately. The first Rhythmic one was printed in 1994. The United States Gymnastics Federation allowed us to reproduce the USGF Safety Posters in the artistic ones. In 2011, we filmed the new artistic guide in Greece with a variety of coaches from many countries which is still online at SOI.
At training schools, starting with 1991, coaches received:
In addition, the Chapter sport director would receive:
The first documented training schools I had recorded started in 1985.
In 1986, at the Special Olympics National Director’s Conference (8/6-7) I ran a training school for Coaches & Sports Directors of a variety of Chapters.
Additionally, in 1986 we did a training school in New Jersey.
1987 was a busy year for promoting Gymnastics. We did numerous Regional Training Schools. The goal was to “Train the Trainers” and the attendees would then go home to their Chapter/State and train more Gymnastic Coaches.
In 1988 I did a Caribbean Region Training School in San Juan Puerto Rico with Carmen Arzan and Elva Martinez. Artistic events were covered, as well as an introduction to Rhythmic Gymnastics.
Over the years many other Training Schools were held around the World for Gymnastics, including:
May 14-16, 2010 Special Olympics North America held a coaches & judges Rhythmic workshop, introducing the new routines… held in Marietta, Georgia with Cindy Bickman, TD SONA & SOI.
And they continue…. Locally, Nationally, & Internationally… Every National & International games offers coaches training. At the International Games in Greece, we filmed coaches & athletes doing warm ups and training athletes on different events to be used on SOI website.