Development programs help SOBC coaches and athletes excel

Special Olympics coach and athlete high five at a race finish line
High fives for Special Olympics BC's life-changing coaches and dedicated athletes!

Special Olympics BC’s dedicated coaches constantly seek to provide the best possible mentorship to athletes with intellectual disabilities. SOBC is committed to offering ongoing coach development opportunities, to help them grow in their roles and empower their athletes through sport.

Throughout the year, SOBC offers programming such as:

There are numerous coach development opportunities coming up in spring 2023 – find them in the SOBC event calendar!

Read on to learn more about the SOBC Sport and Fitness Skill Badge Program, and how it can work for all coaches and athletes!


Get to know the Sport and Fitness Skill Badge Program

To create the SOBC Sport and Fitness Skill Badge Program, SOBC coaches collaborated with sport performance expert Jacques Thibault, who has worked with SOBC athletes and coaches for over a decade as a Sport Consultant helping everyone elevate their performance and health. This program continues SOBC’s commitment to creating top-quality athletic experiences for all coaches and athletes.


What is the SOBC Badge Program?

The program helps coaches give athletes the tools to track their performance in sport-specific skills, challenge themselves to progress, and master their sport through their success in the fundamental skills. The Badge Program is open to all coaches and athletes, and can be offered for all 18 of SOBC’s summer and winter sports.

In each sport, Thibault and SOBC coaches identified a set of core skills that are critical to success, such as dribbling in basketball. 

There are several different fundamental skills in each sport, and each skill has four levels. As athletes progress in their skill, they earn a badge for each level they reach. As athletes practice and improve their performance, they can progress from blue to bronze to silver to gold for each of the core skills, and for fitness skills.

SOBC can send printed booklets and badge stickers to any coaches for them to use with the athletes in their programs! To get the Badge Program resources, please contact SOBC Coach Development Coordinator Madeleine Antwi at


Why the SOBC Badge Program was created

The Badge Program helps coaches energize athletes to practice the core skills for their sport, track their progress, and feel great about their successes. Mastering these fundamental skills will help athletes succeed in their sports within Special Olympics, and it’ll help athletes feel comfortable participating in the sports they love outside Special Olympics as well.

The Badge Program can help athletes practice more often, by giving them specific goals they can practice whenever they want, outside of the weekly training sessions with their coach. Through these increased activities, athletes build up their health and skills.

The Badge Program was developed by Thibault in close collaboration with Special Olympics BC coaches and athletes. At first, it was piloted with a few select sports, but it proved to be so popular that it was soon expanded to all SOBC sports. It's now in use across all 18 sports in many communities across the province, and is getting great responses in all sports, everything from curling to golf and more!


Badge Program builds on Basic Sport Skills

The Badge Program helps coaches use the Basic Sport Skills resources that had been previously created by Thibault and SOBC coaches. Thibault says that the Basic Sport Skills package “focused on skills like being a better passer, being a better dribbler, or better runner.” 

But Thibault and SOBC coaches found that these types of skills can be more challenging for athletes, as they often require lots of specific instructions from coaches. 

“We’ve found our athletes respond better when the coach is able to act more as a guide instead of giving athletes a list of complicated instructions to do,” Thibault said. “So with the Badge Program, we went with more specific and set skills such as, ‘Can you do 10 dribbles for basketball,’ for instance.”


Types of badges and skills

Within each sport, there are badges for sport-specific skills and badges for fitness skills.

If you played basketball, the sport-specific skills would include things like dribbling, passing, or shooting, while the fitness badges would include more general exercises like planking, wall sits, and sit ups.

The fitness badge skills are covered in Club Fit, the weekly fitness program that is open to athletes in all sports. Club Fit is a great way for athletes to increase their fitness and health, which will benefit them in all their 

Thibault says there have also been conversations about developing badges for lifestyle achievements, which could include things like practice attendance and showing up prepared with the proper equipment.


Types of badges: Blue, Bronze, Silver, and Gold

For each skill, the athlete can progress from blue badge achievements to bronze, silver, and gold badges.

Each athlete’s personal progress determines when they earn the next level of badge. It’s all about individual achievements; it is not about ranking athletes against each other. 

For example, an athlete could be interested in going for a fitness badge for pushups. If they could only do one pushup, their goal for a bronze badge might be 10 pushups. But if another athlete could already do 10 pushups, their goal might be to do 15 in order to get a bronze badge.

The Badge Program focuses on personal improvement instead of winning. It’s about empowering each athlete to pursue and feel recognized for their individual progress, and inspire them to continue training outside of their weekly Special Olympics practices.


Goals for the Badge Program

Thibault said the idea was to help athletes develop basic skills and achieve a basic level of play.

“The idea with the Badge Program is to focus on basic skills that you build upon,” Thibault said. Using basketball as an example, he said, “Some of our athletes find it challenging to dribble without looking at the ball, so we’d focus on that first, getting them comfortable dribbling 10 times with each hand without looking at the ball.”

“Once you learn to dribble without looking at the ball and your head’s up and you can see what’s happening in front of you, it’s easier to develop your passing skills. And then from there, you can start looking at your team play and playing positionally. It’s all about improvement and progress over time.”

Once athletes have mastered the basic skills, they can then move on to other skills. 


Badge Program is proving popular

Thibault said that athletes are already responding very, very well to the Badge Program and it’s been effective at keeping them motivated.

“There’s been quite a lot of interest,” he said. “Anything that can motivate athletes to want to progress and do more is always welcomed.”


Benefits of the Badge Program for coaches

Giving athletes core skills to work on at home can help coaches have more time in practices to talk about sport strategies, team play, and rules. Using the Badge Program can also help ensure continuity between coaches.

As Thibault said:

“Sometimes coaches will change, and the badge program not only provides a framework for new coaches, but it will also show coaches the athlete’s progression over time, their current level and skills, and the goals they’re trying to accomplish.”


Future of the SOBC Badge Program

Thibault's dream is to share SOBC’s Badge Program to other Special Olympics organizations in Canada and around the world. Not only does it help people with intellectual disabilities have fun while improving their health, but it also helps them build basic sport skills that can serve as the foundation for anything they want to do in their sport and anywhere they want to participate.

Thibault is an internationally recognized sport performance expert and two-time Olympian in speedskating, who was one of the architects behind the Own the Podium program for Canada. He has consulted with other Olympic hosting nations to help all of their teams be as successful as possible at the Olympic and Paralympic games.

Thibault also volunteers with and supports Special Olympics BC to help athletes be as successful as possible. Over the last decade, Thibault has developed a deep knowledge of Special Olympics athletes and coaches through working with a lot with our members around the province. Thibault has used what he’s learned through his years of engagement with SOBC to help build opportunities for all athletes and coaches.

When asked about his experience with SOBC, Thibault said:

“I’m excited that SOBC is so supportive. They’re not afraid to try new ways to do things and improve the programs--and that’s why I’m with them! I appreciate that everyone is trying to move things forward.”


All coaches can join the fun with the Badge Program!

The Badge Program will be an enduring resource to help engage and empower athletes. It’s a great tool as SOBC programs rebuild from the challenges brought on by the last few years.

All coaches can use these tools to help athletes to measure progress, improve performance, and stay motivated while building the fundamental skills necessary to succeed in sport!

To access the Badge Program resources and other coach development opportunities, please contact SOBC Coach Development Coordinator Madeleine Antwi at


SOBC Coach Development homepage

SOBC resources homepage


We're grateful to the Government of Canada for their ongoing support of Special Olympics coach development opportunities!