Special Olympics Cranbrook/Kimberley is hosting several upcoming sessions with the goal of recruiting athletes and volunteers for various sports and activities.
Barbara Phillips has been a volunteer and coach with the local Special Olympics chapter for many years, along with her husband Kevin. Kevin is head coach of the cross country team, while Barb is the manager.
Phillips explained that many of the local athletes are getting older and therefore aging out of competition.
“We are encouraging young athletes, especially those at an elementary-school level to get involved,” Phillips said. “When Kevin and I created a new cross country team five years ago, we didn’t have any experience with the special olympics, but we knew we wanted to get involved. Since then, cross country has been prospering beautifully, but some of our other sports are lacking in leadership, as well as participation.”
Training is done through the organization, so those who want to get involved but have little experience in coaching need not worry.
There will be three events taking place in Cranbrook as follows:
September 11th from 11a.m. to 1p.m. at the Tamarack Mall.
September 23rd from 6p.m. to 7p.m. at the CSCL Centre, located at 1402 1st Street South. This event will focus on 2021/22 athlete registration.
On September 25th, a ‘try-it’ event will take place from 11a.m. to 1p.m. at both the CSCL Centre and Baker Park. Here, athletes can meet coaches, other athletes, and try out different sports. There will also be the opportunity for registration.
“We are welcoming athletes with intellectual disabilities of all ages to join these various life-changing and fun sport opportunities,” said Phillips. “We are looking for coaches and volunteers to join our team and make a difference in ongoing, seasonal athletic programs and special events.”
Phillips adds that although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the structure of their training and events, it is still a rewarding and fun environment. Safety is a top priority, pandemic aside, and Phillips says it’s important to have people who are dedicated and willing to learn.
“If you’re a person who has the heart for this – we need support. Do you have an idea or the imagination for this? We want to be able to offer the community something new, something different,” Phillips said.
Special Olympics Cranbrook/Kimberley has heard from participants that there is a need for track and field, swimming, bowling, weightlifting, gymnastics and more. Since many of the athletes who currently participate are getting older, the local chapter hopes to recruit young folks who want to get involved in sport.
Phillips is also encouraging people who live in Kimberley to get involved.
“We currently have a big Cranbrook representation and we would like to have more representation from the Kimberley community,” Phillips said. “Some training can be done online and there are lots of different opportunities right now.”
Special Olympics Cranbrook/Kimberley Alpine Team athletes Erin Thom, Roxana Golbeck and volunteer coach Misty Pagliaro were originally chosen to represent Team Canada at the Special Olympics World Winter Games next year in Kazan, Russia. Due to COVID-19, this may not be the case.
Regardless, Phillips says that the organization hopes to be able to continue to send their athletes to the world games (and other opportunities) whenever possible.
“Some of our athletes are so amazing, us coaches can’t keep up,” she laughed. “With COVID, we’re in much smaller groups. This can help to benefit the athletes’ growth and in turn, benefit our growth.
“We had two of our alpine athletes qualify for Russia but now we’re waiting to see what happens. We have different concerns for our athletes and coaches when they are travelling, especially as a group. We want it to be safe for everyone.”
In terms of coaching, Phillips says that some capability in the sport you want to coach is helpful and that every team will be different.
“There will be training opportunities and there is a lot of individual care,” she explained. “A huge part of the Special Olympics is the social dynamics. Of course, there is competition. We do an injustice to the athletes if we don’t believe that they can compete – and that they can compete well. This is a great avenue for you to bring your imagination and it is a very encouraging atmosphere.”
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