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Special Olympics Utah: A Community of Champions

The year-round program offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to stay competitive and achieve their athletic goals.
The+Olympic+and+Paralympic+Cauldron+Plaza+by+Rice+Eccles+Stadium+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+Sept.+23%2C+2023.+%28Photo+by+Xiangyao+Axe+Tang+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Xiangyao Tang
The Olympic and Paralympic Cauldron Plaza by Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Sept. 23, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

When you think of sports, one of the first words that comes to mind is competition. Being a competitive-spirited individual is one of the main values all athletes possess. Many students here at the University of Utah choose to participate in extracurriculars such as intramurals to remain competitive as well as to be active. While intramurals are fun, the campus has several other extracurriculars that offer students the opportunity to stay competitive as well as be a positive factor in their community.

Introducing: Special Olympics Utah. 

What is Special Olympics Utah?

Special Olympics Utah is a year-round program that offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to stay competitive and achieve their athletic goals. Since 1971, Special Olympics Utah has created a community that has allowed individuals with disabilities to find joy in competition and explore new strengths, sparking confidence and joy in their lives.

Special Olympics funds and relies on research to design their programming. The organization studies disparities affecting people with intellectual disabilities, like lack of quality health care and social stigmas. Special Olympics Utah integrates this research into its programming to build its weekly events. They are always looking for volunteers to help put on these events. The majority of its sports promote unity by bringing athletes, both those with and without intellectual disabilities, together on the same playing field.

How Do I Join? 

To become a volunteer for Special Olympics Utah is an easy process. On the Special Olympics Utah website, sout.org, you can get involved and register to become a student volunteer. Special Olympics Utah offers both long-term and short-term opportunities.

Long-term volunteers, or Class A volunteers, get to work with the athletes regularly and build meaningful relationships. These volunteers get to work as leaders and can earn the opportunity to work on a board within the organization. 

As a volunteer, you also have the opportunity to be a coach. As a coach, you will be able to lead your team during weekly competitions. Being a coach requires strong leadership skills and a competitive spirit. If you are interested in getting a coach certification, visit sout.org.

Why Join?

The notion that working for Special Olympics Utah is being a part of something bigger than yourself is what has drawn hundreds of U students to the program. It provides a sense of perspective and self-reflection that is so rare to come by in this day and age.

Being part of Special Olympics Utah is not only a great thing for students to put on their resume but a great life opportunity as well. The friendly culture, competitive spirit and fun experiences are all reasons why you should go and check out Special Olympics Utah.

Former board member Sydney Brooksby enjoyed her time working for Special Olympics Utah.

“It was really fun for me,” Brooksby said. “I enjoyed meeting the athletes and forming meaningful bonds with them and their families.”

Brooksby, a junior at the U, competed for the USA National Archery team in high school and found that Special Olympics Utah was able to keep her competitive spirit alive.

“I was a USA Athlete for a while I was really into training and coaching,” Brooksby said. “I was interested in competing on a more professional level … It was a very humbling experience, something that I am very grateful for.”

A Community Of Champions

Special Olympics Utah’s official motto is “A Community of Champions.” The motto encapsulates a powerful vision of unity and empowerment that defines all associated with the program. It signifies a collective commitment to support, inspire and uplift one another, regardless of individual challenges or circumstances. It embodies the idea that together, we can overcome obstacles and celebrate each person’s unique journey to success. 

By cultivating these beliefs, Special Olympics Utah has created a meaningful program that we as U students should be proud to have in our corner.

[Special Olympics Utah] made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself,” Brooksby said. “Truly a great place to compete.”

Over the next couple of months Special Olympics Utah will be hosting weekly Polar Plunge philanthropy events across the state. The closest one to campus will be held on Jan. 20 at Daybreak. For more information check out the event calendar at sout.org.

 

[email protected]

@max_valva

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About the Contributors
Max Valva, Sports Writer
Max Valva is a sports writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle and is a studying journalism. Growing up playing basketball he made it his goal to pursue a career connected to the game. He is a diehard A’s, Warriors and Raiders fan.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

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