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UBCO students train athletes for the Special Olympics

 Softball coach Dennis Richardson and Greg Mather, commuter services coordinator at UBC’s Okanagan campus, take a team photo with a few of the Special Olympic athletes representing B.C. at the National Games, including softball players Richard Gillis, Dale Ramsden, James Blacke. Also in the photo are Coach Ian Olive, Special Olympic golfer Kyle Grumett, and coach Lorena Mead. - contributed
Softball coach Dennis Richardson and Greg Mather, commuter services coordinator at UBC’s Okanagan campus, take a team photo with a few of the Special Olympic athletes representing B.C. at the National Games, including softball players Richard Gillis, Dale Ramsden, James Blacke. Also in the photo are Coach Ian Olive, Special Olympic golfer Kyle Grumett, and coach Lorena Mead.
— image credit: contributed

As a third-year nursing student and captain of the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s cross-country running team, Trisha Metro has a lot on her plate. So when she volunteered to train athletes for this summer’s Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games at UBC’s Vancouver campus, she admits there were moments when she felt overwhelmed. That feeling, however, never lasted long.

“You can show up tired, sick, stressed out or annoyed, and the positive energy from the athletes overtakes you,” says Metro. “We benefit from their success, their pride, and their achievements. We benefit from their infectious laughter and banter. We benefit every time we walk through the doors.”

Metro coaches Special Olympics BC (SOBC) athletes as part of the Functional Fitness program, a weekly athletic training session organized by student volunteers from the UBC Southern Medical Program, School of Nursing, School of Health and Exercise Sciences, and UBC Okanagan Heat athletic teams. The sessions feature cardio workouts and strength-training exercises specifically tailored to fit the needs of individual athletes with intellectual disabilities. There are also nutritional talks and a yoga class, as well as team sport activities where athletes compete against their coaches.

Metro says the initiative offers UBC volunteers a motivating environment that allows athletes to achieve their strength and fitness goals. The collaboration also gives practical hands-on experience to UBC students pursuing careers in health-related fields.

“We can relate to the high level of commitment and sacrifice made by the SOBC athletes in order to achieve an elite level in their sport,” says Metro. “Coaches have made impacts in all of our lives, and it is an honour to pay it forward.”

The Functional Fitness program began in January and continues with weekly training sessions right up until the 2014 National Games, which take place at UBC’s Vancouver campus July 8 to 12.

Brittney Young, co-coach for the Functional Fitness program, will be one of 10 students and alumni sent by UBC’s Okanagan campus to the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games.

“I’m involved in the Functional Fitness program because I absolutely love being able to help out with Special Olympics and be in close contact with all of the athletes,” says Young, who graduated this year from the Human Kinetics program.

“The sessions were a part of a practicum experience in order to complete my degree. I am continuing to volunteer as a coach throughout the summer and am really looking forward to volunteering at the games and cheering on our local athletes.”

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