This is how Special Olympics coaches and athletes are staying active – and connected – amid the COVID-19 risks

A screenshot of Rebecca's Facebook post.
Rebecca Cuff’s Facebook post.

Special Olympics Ontario’s Rebecca Cuff is one of many volunteer coaches going the extra mile to make sure athletes stay active, healthy and safe amid COVID-19 risks.

As of Monday March 16, all Special Olympics programming across the country was suspended, due to recent developments tied to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

On Monday, Cuff – an elementary school teacher who is also at home because schools shut down – decided to post a video to Facebook while she was out for a walk.

“To all of my Special Olympics athletes and my friends who are at home looking to do something active today, go outside for a WALK! Programs may be on hold, but you can still keep your body moving,” the aquatics and athletics coach wrote. “It’s a beautiful day here in the GTA (not sure about other parts of the province and country). Take advantage of the sunshine today while you can.”

She kept athletes accountable by asking them to “post a selfie of you walking solo or with someone you live with so I can see what you’re up to.”

Special Olympics Ontario athlete Kristen Domingues and her mom/coach Eddie out on a walk.
Special Olympics Ontario athlete Kristen Domingues and her mom/coach Eddie out on a walk.

The post garnered dozens of comments alongside pictures of how they’re staying active.

“They don’t have access to their regular weekly programming and a lot of them live in apartments or group homes and I think a lot of them are a little bit scared,” said Cuff. “I need to keep them busy if they’re all just hanging out at home.”

On Tuesday, she posted again to her Facebook, sharing links to home workouts, including an Instagram Live to a 20-minute workout from Barre Edina, as well as an online strength workout from Stratford’s Ritual Studio: Yoga Kinesiology Active Living, encouraging athletes to try it out.

“I’m going to try to post something every single day, depending on the weather and what I can find,” said Cuff. “Even if a couple of them do it, at least they’re doing something. It keeps their minds healthy and keeps them in shape for when programs do start up again.”

Special Olympics Ontario floor hockey and athletics coach, Lisa Hillis-O’Kane, has also been staying in touch with her North Bay athletes.

“What I said to my crew is that with the pause in Special Olympics activities, it is still important that we keep active and healthy,” she said. “Get out in the fresh air for a walk or run, use your workout equipment at home.”

Matty, a Special Olympics Ontario athlete from North Bay, is staying active and getting fresh air.
Matty, a Special Olympics Ontario athlete from North Bay, is staying active and getting fresh air.

So far, a number of athletes have sent her pictures of them cross-country skiing or walking.

“I also told them that they are O.K. and that if they have any questions to call me,” she added.

As social distancing continues, Cuff plans to look for more resources to share, as well as post her own home workout videos.

“I’ll have to get creative, but whatever I can find that seems appropriate, I’ll be posting,” she said. “I’m happy if just one person gets moving.”

How are you staying active during this time of social distancing and self-isolation? Let us know by sending an email to lcahute@specialolympics.ca