September 18-26 marks National Coaches Week and at Special Olympics Alberta our coaches continue to make a difference for the movement on-and-off the field.
From taking on virtual programming to mentoring other volunteers, our coaches continue to go above and beyond for athletes across the province.
Someone who has continued to step up to the plate is Special Olympics Alberta-Edmonton coach, Lynell Bird.
Adaptability and versatility are nothing new to Lynell who has been coaching with the organization since 1998 in multiple sports including 5-pin bowling, swimming, snowshoeing, bocce.
“When I was younger, I babysat many children with disabilities, and I saw Special Olympics as an exciting opportunity to expand and support individuals with an intellectual disability in the world of sport,” said Lynell. “I quickly saw how impactful Special Olympics is to our athletes, giving them opportunities to learn, grow and celebrate with their peers.”
Lynell is currently the Head Coach of the softball program in Edmonton, and this past summer she led the softball fitness program to keep athletes active and connected at home.
The program incorporated everything from focused strength training (arms, legs, core, etc.), cardio workouts, Zumba, yoga, and circuit training virtually.
One of her favourite memories as a coach was a National Games experience when an athlete who normally places first, placed second.
“I was worried that he would be upset,” said Lynell.
“When I asked how he felt about his silver medal, he said, ‘Coach, that was great, somebody beat me!’ It fanned a fire in him to continue to strive to be even better. Special Olympics athletes inspire me to be the best version of myself every day.”
Beyond her involvement as a coach, Lynell has also taken on the responsibility of acting as a Learning Facilitator for other coaches in the province – another training that she has had to adapt for virtual learning.
These workshops are aimed to provide coaches with a toolkit of coaching techniques that includes practice planning, communication, feedback mechanisms, safety components, and competition prep.
“I was fortunate to have been surrounded by experienced coaches when I joined Special Olympics, so that I could be immersed in learning how to be the best coach for our athletes,” said Lynell. “I have a passion for learning, and I am thankful to be able to share learnings with other coaches as traverse their coaching journey with Special Olympics.”
Lynell integrates her knowledge into the sessions and her goal is to equip coaches with everything they need to be able to provide the best experience for each athlete.
Her experience is invaluable and her guidance as a learning facilitator has been critical to the growth of many of our grassroots coaches.
“There are abundant opportunities that Special Olympics offers. It’s more than just learning about sports: It’s about being part of a team, it’s about continually improving, it’s about cheering for each other and celebrating successes! I am thankful that I connected with Special Olympics, as they embody the value of supporting each other, striving for their Personal Bests and never giving up.”
Lynell believes that any interested coach should simply try it out and expects that they will love their time with Special Olympics.
“The best day to get involved is today,” said Lynell.
Thank you to Lynell and the hundreds of Special Olympics Alberta coaches who are making a difference for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
Join us in saying #ThanksCoach online throughout the week by sharing your favourite memories, using the hashtag, and tagging @SpecialOAlberta.