Dear all athletes, coaches, volunteers and parents / carers
A year and a half ago, I said at The AGM that in the Summer after The World Games I would be stepping away from Special Olympics. That time has quickly gone past – and now is the time. Taking the Lothian Athletes from World Games Abu Dhabi down to Liverpool for their reunion seems like an apt and appropriate time to retire.
Mirren & I still remember taking Lachlan to his first football session at Meadowbank eighteen years ago. Elaine thought he was a bit too young / small and we worried that she was going to send him away - to come back in another year. Thankfully, she said he could go on the pitch & give it a try. He played 5 a side with the A Band group – scored a hattrick and the rest for him is history, 4 National Games with Lothian - European Football Championships and World Games with Great Britain.
That night is where it began for Mirren & me – and it’s been quite a journey – a lot of time spent, an awful lot of travelling, but most of all a lot of fun and enjoyment.
For me, the very best bit about Special Olympics is watching an athlete turning up for their first session all nervous, not knowing what to expect – then watching as they put in the effort and training, gradually working their way up the competition pathway – improving all the time and building confidence and self-esteem. The huge smile is always the same when they are picked for their first National Games and that smile certainly does not go away if they are lucky enough to be selected for Team GB at a European or World Games level.
The reaction from parents / carers when they come to see their child’s first competition is almost always the same – “I never knew they could do that”. My response is - Just because your son / daughter has a learning disability – it does not stop them dreaming of doing what their brother or sister does OR emulating what they see their heroes do on T.V. With the correct training, encouragement and effort from them – anything is possible.
The 10 years I spent as secretary was an invaluable eye opener into the workings of Special Olympics and disability sport in general. Working alongside Yvonne (Chair), Elaine (Vice Chair) and Mirren (Treasurer), we cracked along exploring and opening up new avenues and channels for our athletes to go down both within Scotland and further afield – the annual trip with the footballers to Geneva (living in a nuclear bunker) being one of the more memorable. So it is a huge thanks to that trio for the enthusiasm and knowledge that helped pushed Lothian forward to the extent that we became the blue print region that SOGB wanted all the others to follow.
There is also a huge thank you to the coaches / volunteers who make Lothian Special Olympics what it is. Your vibrancy and energy transfers to the athletes and the results speak for themselves. Parents also play a huge part and I have been lucky enough to meet and work with parents / carers who buy into their child’s ambition – ensuring that they get to training, competitions etc. to make dreams a reality.
It goes without saying that over the eighteen years, both Mirren and myself have made friendships too numerous to mention individually, both within Lothian and from further afield. Rest assured these friendships will not be slipping.
So to conclude, I would like to thank everybody – past and present – involved with Special Olympics for your help and support over the years. I am not joking when I say it has been an absolute blast. I have enough mementos / kit from various excursions to ensure I never forget Special Olympics.