A Lesson on What Matters

This is an experience post about Coaching in the Special Olympics.

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When I first arrived to the Soccer Special Olympics on that early September morning, we were instantly welcomed by the smiling faces of the athletes who laughed and cheered as we walked by. A large pink dog was dancing around and playing with the athletes, singing with them and getting them warmed up. Soon, the commencement ceremony began with the lighting of the torch by one of the athletes. He slowly walked up the aisle, and although he started to venture off into the wrong arena, he was still proud all the same for having the ability to give his Olympic games meaning.

As the day continued, many of the athletes played their hearts out competing to win, even showing their aggressive sides a few times, knocking each other down in attempts to steal the soccer ball from one another. The team I was coaching seemingly got along well, but eventually I noticed that one of the boys, Louie, was crying alone on the bench. I walked up to him and I asked what was bothering him and he said, “I’m not getting the ball.. no one will pass to me at all!” I responded to him with a tone of encouragement, “Louie, it’s your job to demand the ball from your team, and even if you don’t get the ball, be proud of yourself for making the run towards the goal and speaking up for yourself. You are on this team for a reason, and your teammates would gladly pass you the ball if you just call for it!” He answered enthusiastically with an “OK,” and then ran back onto the field, pushing like a locomotive towards the goal box. He was almost in the goal when our defense passed finally passed him the ball. He reached out for the ball with his foot, and everyone hoped with anticipation that he would be the one to score the game winning goal. However, he slipped and fell, and the ball rolled across the goal line behind the net. The game was over; we tied. In fact, this game was the very game we needed to have a chance to enter into the final round, but we tied and got third instead. I quickly looked over at Louie who was laying with his back on the ground with his arms outstretched to the sky, and I ran over to him. “Are you okay, Louie?” He paused before answering me and smiled. Then he sat up and began to giggle uncontrollably, “I called for it,” he shouted, “I called for the ball!”

It was then that I realized that being a truly altruistic person isn’t giving another individual what they desire, it’s changing their perceptions for the better and having a positive impact on someone’s life. I helped Louie up and led him to the crowd that was waiting and cheering, “Yes, you did.”

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