Anne Donovan has been coaching for four years, and has been volunteering for the Special Olympics for 10. She trains her athletes throughout the year from March to November, and has added an extra day or two’s training for some of her players in preparation for the National Summer Games 2013.
Anne believes that volunteers are highly important and heavily required for the games to run smoothly, and if a person has a service that they can offer and is available, then they should step up and volunteer for the Special Olympics.
A highlight for Anne is seeing her team playing successfully, and when they bowl well. A challenge over the last four years has been getting enough volunteers to support the ever growing number of athletes in regional competitions and tournaments.
Anne’s training philosophy is "first and foremost fun, and that the guys enjoy themselves – skill-set always comes second". For the National Summer Games 2013, she hopes that the "guys go home having had a good time and feeling satisfied", noting that the competition and the healthy athletes checks are fantastic experiences for the athletes.
Adrian Caffell has shown a key interest in his son Bradley's development over the years. Not only does he encourage Bradley, but he also helps out all of the members of the Otago Powerlifting team.
Adrian began attending Bradley's training sessions as a parent but began to participate in the training sessions himself.
"I competed myself to get more involved with the training, gain a better understanding of the sport, and to give the guys something to aim for," said Adrian.
Adrian doesn’t see himself as a Coach – he has taken on the responsibility for the Games because Head Coach Marie Soffe was unable to coach on the day (due to other Head Coach responsibilities at the Games). Adrian is really appreciative for the huge amount of time and effort that Marie, Phil Murphy, Sylvia Clarkson, and the other volunteers have put into helping the athletes: "the athletes wouldn’t be where they are today without them".\
Adrian and his wife Kim have supported Bradley in his sporting achievements since he began participating in sport at age seven.
"We have encouraged Bradley to try out various sports such as skiing and athletics, but with Powerlifting we have finally found a sport that matches his physique, and has helped him to mentally and physically develop," he says.
Adrian says that you can really see the difference that Powerlifting has made to the boys control and the way in which they have developed. "It's quite amazing how all of the boys have improved so much," he says.
The team members are also very proud to be involved with the sport, they were flexing their muscles as they entered the MoreFM arena for the Opening Ceremony.
Adrian believes that the biggest highlight of being involved with Powerlifting is the camaraderie. "Powerlifting is a sport where everyone is fully supportive of each other. The athletes are not really there to compete against the other teams, they are there to compete against themselves – to beat their personal bests and to reach their personal goals," he says.
This can be seen in the way in which the Otago team members have welcomed a former Otago team member, Josh (now a North Islander), back to Otago.
The biggest buzz for Adrian is seeing the athletes do clean lifts in front of the crowd, and achieving their personal goals. Adrian mentioned that there are many obstacles for the boys, especially because Powerlifting is such a structured sport – everything has to be perfect.
"It takes a lot of repetition to get Bradley and the boys to focus and get the right technique, they only have one minute to execute the lift so it is difficult," he says.
Adrian does everything he can to support the athletes, he has even been known to dress up as Captain Jack Sparrow from time to time. Adrian said that he really relates to the athletes and gets a kick out of making them happy. "I started doing the mascot stuff to try and get the best out of the athletes – they really respond well to it."
Adrian believes that he was "chosen for this job – I wouldn’t change it for the world, they are special, and that is what I love about all of them. They are so friendly, so engaging, so easy to get along with, and just love being included as part of something."
Nigel Cash has been coaching for about 10 years, and has been training his four athletes in shot-put for over a year in anticipation for this event.
Overall, Nigel is happy about the way the Athletics went during Day Three – with his four athletes gaining a silver medal each in their divisions. He says that coaching is "all pretty cruisy"; he works with people with disabilities, which is extremely rewarding.
A highlight for Nigel has been seeing everybody enjoy themselves at the National Summer Games 2013. "It's not about me – it's about seeing the athletes compete and enjoy themselves. Regardless of where they’re placed, they’re always happy," he said.
Nigel is one of Special Olympics coaching successes. He competed as an athlete for Special Olympics North Taranaki in Athletics for many years before turning his hand to coaching others. He says his inspiration for coaching is wanting to put all the experiences and everything he got from training and competing, back into the community, and into coaching others.
Both Graeme and Juliana Tonkin have been coaching Golf for Special Olympics North Harbour for almost eight years. They got involved with Special Olympics when their son Matthew went to compete in theNational Summer Games 2005 in Christchurch. As keen golfers themselves, Graeme and Juliana were approached by the Club President and asked to take on the coaching position for the North Harbour team.
The Tonkins’ coachg for the Special Olympics every Saturday. Every forth Saturday the nine-hole athletes get a chance to compete. Graeme and Juliana are the main coaches in the Auckland region, coaching three different teams in total.
Graeme and Juliana agreed that the biggest obstacle that the athletes face is getting time on the course. Ideally, they would love for athletes to get more training time but in a busy region like Auckland there are heavy membership demands.
Graeme said the athletes are very fortunate to have access to the golf course, and in the past, some of the Auckland region golfers have been lucky enough to have coaching sessions with Guy Wilson (Lydia Ko’s coach), and Craig Dickson (international coach).
Graeme and Julia mentioned that all of the "athletes benefit from being away as a group, meeting other teams, interacting with people who have common interests, the discipline and etiquette of golf, and sportsmanship".
"Golf is a challenging sport, but the athletes all really enjoy it," said Graeme.
North Harbour team members have dubbed themselves the "best dressed on the golf course" this week, with their smart uniforms and golfing etiquette.
Central Otago Team Manager Pippa Wellstead (and mother of athlete Jack Wellstead) has travelled to Dunedin to support her son, and the 18 other athletes from Central Otago in their journeys at the National Summer Games 2013.
Pippa said the highlight of the Opening Ceremony was Sarah Conlan’s heartfelt song, 'Soaring High' – a song written for the Special Olympics National Summer Games. She mentioned that she had heard the song on iTunes many times, but that “hearing it in person brings tears to your eyes, it just blows you away”.
Jack Wellstead will be competing in the Aquatics at the games, which started on Wednesday. It had been a hectic start to the competition to get all of the athletes sorted and ready on time, especially with the vast number of athletes in the stands at Moana Pool. Pippa mentioned that in such a hectic environment, it is difficult to keep the athletes calm and prepared for their races, but she believes that the experiences that the Games have to offer are endless.
The Games “give the athletes the opportunity to compete at a sporting level with others who have a similar ability”, she said. Pippa also pointed out that even if an athlete is disqualified they are still allowed to race, which “gives everybody the chance to shine”.
Pippa has seen the benefits of these types of events, with her son Jack gaining many achievements in regional and national games. Jack has competed at the National Independence Games twice, and in November 2012 Jack won two gold medals and one silver medal at the Dunedin Regional Games.
Kaye Dey has been coaching in the Special Olympics for the past 27 years. She started coaching in Taranaki in 1986, before moving to Pukekohe.
Kaye’s son has been trained and competed for Special Olympics in the athletics for many years, and has also recently joined a football team in Pukekohe. Kaye says her inspiration for coaching stemmed from her son, and also her previous work with the IHC residential homes, noting that [the athletes] “give you so much, and if they lose they don’t seem too bothered”.
An incredible highlight for Kaye has been watching her son represent New Zealand at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland where he won two silver medals in the 400m sprint and the long jump. A challenge she has found while coaching for the past 27 years has been accommodating the ever increasing number of Special Olympic athletes of all ages every four years that the games are held.
Kaye’s expectations for the 2013 Summer Games are for her athletes do their best and have fun while competing.