The mission of Special Olympics of Mobile County is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
The ultimate objective of Special Olympics of Mobile County is to help people with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public's awareness of their capabilities and needs.
The concept of Special Olympics began in the early 1960s when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp in her own backyard for people with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation). From that experience, it was clear that these individuals were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts believed.
In 1968, Mrs. Shriver organized the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago, in the belief that the lessons these athletes learned through sports would translate into new competence and success in school, in the workplace, and in the community. Above all, Mrs. Shriver wanted the families and neighbors of people with intellectual disabilities to see what these individuals could accomplish, to take pride in their efforts, and to rejoice in their victories.
Today, Special Olympics Inc. is the world's largest provider of fitness training, education and athletic competition - coupled with social, life, and leadership skill development opportunities - for children and adults with intellectual disabilities or a similar developmental disability.
Improved Quality of Life
Once ignored and neglected, hidden at home, or isolated from the community in institutions, people with intellectual disabilities have gained respect and acceptance through Special Olympics. To every athlete involved, the program provides a lifetime of active participation in sports and an opportunity to become contributing and accepted members of society. To their families, it is a symbol of hope. To volunteers and to the public, Special Olympics offers an experience that uplifts the spirit and touches the heart.
A person's participation in Special Olympics has been scientifically proven to have a variety of beneficial outcomes, including improved self-esteem and overall health, better relationships with family members, and a greater ability to become productive members of the community.
In 1993-1994, the Yale University Child Study Center conducted a survey of athletes to measure the effects of their participation in Special Olympics. Using a control group of individuals with similar disabilities and of similar socioeconomic stature, Dr. Elizabeth Dykens found that Special Olympics athletes outperformed the control group in the following ways:
Over and over, parents tell of the isolation they felt upon learning that their child had an intellectual disability. Then they explain how Special Olympics delivered hope, a place to belong, and a sense of community. In Special Olympics, family members gain a support network of people with similar concerns, questions, and life experiences; help finding medical expertise and community resources; and a place of acceptance, respect, and belonging. Through their participation in Special Olympics, athletes form better and stronger core relationships, and parents and siblings see firsthand the unique talents and skills of their loved ones.
Volunteers are the backbone of the Special Olympics movement, and the program would not exist, succeed, and continue to grow without the efforts of well-trained volunteers. Of the more than 250 competitions and sports training sessions held annually, less than 1% of the people who manage and run these events are paid to do so.
Coaches have the greatest opportunity to create positive change in Special Olympics athletes because they are the ones who work with the athletes on a consistent basis. Good coaches know that learning to play a sport is more than just mastering athletic skills - it takes teamwork, commitment, sacrifice, and dedication. These are qualities that Special Olympics coaches work to instill in their athletes, with the understanding that these lessons can have a positive impact on the athletes' lives outside of sports.
Special Olympics coaches find rewards that go far beyond the finish line. They become role models and character builders. They help our athletes discover their physical skills, their self-worth, their human courage, and their capacity to grow. Being a Special Olympics coach is one of the most important and rewarding volunteer roles.
Website Maintained by Judy Winfield