Special Olympic Swim Opportunities By: Jessica Brady

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Special Olympics Unified Sports Logo

Special Olympic Swim Opportunities By: Jessica Brady

Special Olympics Unified Sports Logo

I have been a physical educator for 10 years. A lifeguard for almost 20 years.
Research tells us how important physical activity and nutrition are. However, we should
also consider how impactful and valuable being part of a team is for all ages and abilities.
In today’s society technology is entertainment and a myriad of other things. Personally, I
think we need to disconnect from these devices, get out of the house, move to improve
and enjoy one another’s company. For me all signs lead to swimming. Swimming is not
only a life skill, it is a whole body workout and therapeutic for many. Most importantly it
is a vital skill that can be passed down to the next generation.

Special Olympics (SO) offers 30-plus Olympic-style individual and team sports.
This organization spreads throughout the country and is highly volunteer based. And
provide structure, meaningful training, teamwork and competition opportunities for
persons with varied intellectual abilities. I had the privilege of working as a swim coach
for SO this past season (Spring 2024). I worked with high school aged male students.
Most had never swam an entire pool length and were nervous at the attempt. With
hands-on swim training in the water and videos to review at home all swimmers were
able to complete a lap and many felt comfortable enough to do two or more by the end of
our season.

Our first and most eventful meet was held at West Point Academy in Upstate New
York. My swimmers were graciously welcomed as were their families. This meet
introduced all of us to the amazing world of Special Olympic sport. So much time and
effort was clearly put into the day’s festivities. Many sporting events were held on their
impressive campus that day including opening ceremonies which is the norm for each
and every Special Olympic event. At the end of the day, a shuttle van taking us back to

our bus was driven by a soon to be graduating cadet. After her and I chatted I learned
this annual event takes nearly six months to plan for.
The meet was fun, relaxed, organized and a hugely important day for my novice
swimmers. We did very well considering we only had four practices prior to the big day!
For the first time in a long time I felt connected to a community.

I grew up swimming at family pools and at New York City and state beaches. I
joined Saint Sebastian’s swim team in 1996 with Shawn Slevin as my first coach. And
continued to compete in high school and college. The meaning behind practice and
competition for me at an early age was just plain fun. It got me out of the house, allowed
me to meet new people and win a championship. Swimming has taught me discipline,
respect and countless other lessons to help build a strong mental foundation. I gained all
this while working toward personal goals and goals with teammates.

After school activities, especially sport, help you find purpose, courage and
passion. Being a part of the Special Olympic this year made me realize bringing out the
best in yourself at any age is priceless. Physical activity through sport will not only
improve your health but create positivity, build character and increase self confidence
throughout your lifetime.

Swimming evolved into a lifeguarding and physical education career for me as it
has for many of my former teammates and lifeguard buddies. Swimming is not only a
great pastime, it can save your life. If you know anyone who would benefit from being an
athlete or a coach check out the SO website!!!!


-Happy summer & safe swimming to all !

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