To celebrate National Coaches Week Sept 19 to 27, we are thanking our 14,000 volunteer coaches across the country by sharing some of their inspiring stories. Their unwavering support helps Special Olympics athletes build the confidence, determination and strength to take on any challenge in sport – and in life.
Meet Special Olympics Saskatchewan coach Kent Yuzik
Kent started volunteering for Special Olympics Swift Current in 2015 as an assistant coach for floor hockey. He then became co-head coach for both floor hockey and softball. He’s also been a member of his Special Olympics Community Board since 2016.
1. What made you get involved with Special Olympics Saskatchewan?
I knew a little bit about Special Olympics through the Knights of Columbus, but I was asked to be an assistant coach with the floor hockey program by a good friend. That was the start of my involvement with SO.
2. What do you love about coaching?
There are so many things that I love about Special Olympics coaching, but the main thing is having a part in the development of our athletes. The excitement of helping them reach their goals and potential is a great feeling. The genuine gratitude from my athletes makes it all worthwhile.
3. What is your favourite Special Olympics moment/memory?
All of my time with Special Olympics creates great memories. My favourite memory is being the Head Coach of our Southwest Zone Floor Hockey Team for the Special Olympics Saskatchewan Winter Games 2019. It was wonderful to have my daughter Danielle as an assistant coach with me. Bringing athletes together from different cities to form our team and then winning a silver medal was very rewarding and exciting. I was also honored to present the Coach Oath at the Opening Ceremony.
4. How has Special Olympics changed your life?
Special Olympics has brought a whole new group of friends into my life. It's not just an athlete/coach relationship, we are also their confidants and friends as many athletes are my age. I have met so many great coaches, athletes and Special Olympics members from all over Canada and we are all one happy community. I am proud to call them all my friends. Special Olympics coaching has also helped me to "think out of the box" to solve any problems that I encounter in life.
5. What have you learned from Special Olympics athletes?
I have learned so many things from my athletes, but I think the main thing is that odds were meant to be overcome. I see my athletes doing this all the time in their day to day living and sports. No matter how their day went, they come to practice with smiles on their faces and they try their hardest at everything we ask them to do at practices and games. They have also taught me some pretty cool dance moves (which is tough to do, as I am a horrible dancer).
6. How else are you involved in Special Olympics, aside from coaching?
I'm a member at large on our Community Board. I am involved with many aspects from fundraising to input on local policies. I initially became a member, as more were needed, but I have now found out that it has improved me as a coach. I can have some input on decisions that affect our athletes and I want to ensure that we keep Special Olympics strong in our community. This will give our athletes the opportunity to participate in as many sports as we can provide for them.
7. How difficult have the past few months in quarantine been on your athletes and you as a coach?
The quarantine for the past number of months has been very difficult for my athletes and myself. We went from seeing each other one to two times per week (or more) to not at all.
8. How have you been staying connected with your athletes during the past few months?
As a community, we did an activity challenge with coaches vs. athletes (was performed individually and then minutes were registered through coaches) to try and keep them active. I have communicated with athletes by phone calls and texting. I can't wait to be able to get together as a group again to start "the good times rolling!"
9. Why should other people get involved with Special Olympics?
Special Olympics will give you so much more than you can ever give back. The pure enjoyment that you receive from interacting with all the athletes and coaches is immeasurable. You will make lifelong friends. It "fills your bucket up" when you go to a tournament and athletes from other communities remember you and come to say hi. If someone feels they don't have the training to become a coach, don't worry, as Special Olympics provides all the training you will ever need to be the best coach/person you can be. I have also been extremely blessed to be able to coach with both of my daughters (Danielle and Angela), as they have also become involved in Special Olympics. Whether you want to be a Community Board Member, coach, volunteer or just a cheerleader, there is something for everyone and you will always leave with a smile on your face.