People around the world follow and are inspired by world competitors and Olympians. The competitors at Worlds and the Olympics are to be commended and admired for their achievements through talent and hard work. Yet another group of athletes can be an inspiration to us all.
We All Have Much to Learn from Special Olympians
“To see an athlete train and compete through Special Olympics is to realize that inner strength knows no limitations, and to have the very best in human nature revealed to us.” –Sargent Shriver
Four hundred athletes in Canada are competing January 20-23 at Thunder Bay, Ontario, to qualify for their 2012 national Special Olympics. An article at The Record.com talks about the spirit of Special Olympians, athletes with intellectual disabilities, who have much to teach us.
In the article “Bloomingdale figure skater has unsinkable spirit,” Jessica Gingrich, head coach at the Woolwich Skating Club, talks about the inspirational example of one of her students who is competing in Thunder Bay. She also talks about the example of all the Special Olympians. Referring to a recent competition in Grimsby, the article says:
In Grimsby, Gingrich shuttled between dressing rooms, noting that the Special Olympians’ room was bursting with excited chatter as the skaters encouraged each other.
In the other skaters’ room, Gingrich was greeted with stony silence as competitors withdrew into their usual pre-competition mode.
“I’d like to bring more of that Special Olympics’ attitude into the quiet dressing room,” Gingrich said.
About her student who is competing in Thunder Bay, Gingrich says: “Through her, you come to realize you just can’t give up on anything in life.”
My Experience with Intellectually Disabled Individuals Made Me Happy
Before discovering Montessori education, my original major was Special Education after a truly inspiring summer job between my junior and senior year of high school working with the intellectually disabled as part of the Youth Service Corp … and after working again with the intellectually disabled during the summer between my senior year of high school and starting college that fall.
I also have many happy memories of volunteer work with individuals with intellectual disabilities later on, including volunteering at a Special Olympics competition. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the Special Olympians was a sharp contrast to many skating competitions where many of the athletes look unhappy before, during, and after their event. Often, in standard events, there are more tears than smiles.
How My Children Learned to Live a Competitive Philosophy Similar to That of Special Olympians
To my family, being unhappy at a competition event simply wasn’t worth it. I was glad that my children learned to enjoy competing and came to realize that enjoying the experience of performing was more important than placement. Christina just wrote a post this week about her “Top Tip for Skating Performances and Competitions.” There are links to other posts by Will with a similar message in “Get the Competitive Advantage.”
Will’s and Christina’s attitudes of enjoying the performance helped them become excellent competitors. It may have been easier for them to learn to accept whatever happened because they had partners who they supported, even if their partners weren’t happy with their own performances. But learning to enjoy the journey and the experience of performing gave Will and Christina a competitive philosophy closer to that of the Special Olympians.
And that really is the smartest competition philosophy of all.
Watch this video for some Special Olympics inspiration!
Have you been lucky enough to experience a Special Olympics event or to know an athlete with a similar philosophy?