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A “Special” Coaching Experience You Can’t Imagine. (Until You Try For Yourself)

by John DeBenedictis

 One of my most memorable coaching experience was something completely opposite from one that you would expect. Dr. Lou Lombardi and his wife Serena, ran the Scarboro Azzurri Special Olympics Soccer Program for years. They asked me to be a special guest coach at one of their practices. I did my usual planning with notes and diagrams of what I wanted to do. I approached the field, assembled the players and was amazed to find out that I was not just dealing with kids. I had a group that ranged in age from 15 to 55. There were close to 25 boys, girls, men and women all there ready and eager to play.What a shock that was! Then of course I tried the first drill I had planned and nothing went as planned. It did not work at all and I quickly noticed that I had to completely scrap my plans. I realized you cannot coach a Special Olympics team like any team, not even a very young team, but instead you need to coach them all one-on-one all through practice including your scrimmage.I pulled parents, and had plenty of help from members of the Monteleon Old-timers Soccer team who so graciously give their time each week to help bring the ratios down to as close as possible to a two to one ratio. But what came over me most was that these players were all happy to be there. They tried their hardest to do what was said and they loved doing what they were doing. Even though some were physically unable to move properly they tried and were happy to be there. The players all listened and were eager to learn. It was such a gratifying feeling that I now know why they are called “special”. These people can really bring you down to earth.

WOW! It Made My Day.

They make you realized that life need not be as complicated as we make it provided we all give and share that loving feeling for each other. WOW, It was a magical experience and one of my truly most memorable moments in coaching. We often define our best soccer memories by winning games and tournaments, exotic traveling and international experiences. By giving back some time right at home we can add to our soccer memories.

Even if you can only dedicate one session to them, they will appreciate you and you will appreciate the experience even more. You don’t even need to have much soccer experience to help out. You will leave the practice session feeling good. That’s a guarantee. And if you haven’t had the opportunity to try it then there are many Special Olympians waiting to make your day.

Contact your local Special Olympics program in your area and I am sure that they will be grateful for your help, even it you can only make one session if that is all your time will allow for. Don’t miss this opportunity because it is truly is a window for personal growth.

Thanks for reading,

John DeBenedictis

Executive Director of The National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada has contributed to FUNdamental SOCCER for decades. Author of the best-selling book "The Last 9 Seconds: The Secrets to Scoring Goals on the Last Touch." and offers a course called "Secrets to Goal Scoring." Goalkeeper for York University, National Title winner in 1977. Semi-professional in the National Soccer League with Toronto Ukrainian and co-ran camps with former English International goalkeeper and Canadian National Team coach Tony Waiters.