For Dwayne Campbell, chair of the Lacombe and District Special Olympics branch, Special Olympics is about building community and social ties.
Campbell first got involved with Special Olympics because of his son, Warren, who is a Special Olympian. Warren was swimming with the group in Red Deer because there was no club in Lacombe at the time. When Dwayne heard there was a group looking to start one in 2005, he got involved to help bring the program to Lacombe.
Dwayne said that Special Olympics is an important part of his son’s social life, as it is for many of the athletes, so it was great to bring the program closer to home.
“It’s kind of their community,” said Dwayne.
In fact, Dwayne said that to him, the most important part of Special Olympics, at least in Lacombe, is to develop and provide a social community for those involved. He added that this is somewhat in contrast with the key beliefs of Special Olympics Alberta, whose official mandate is to enrich the lives of Albertans with intellectual disabilities through sport.
“I’m not against the provincial program,” said Dwayne.
“But at the same time I think the biggest part of this is the social opportunity, to be with friends and have fun and meet new friends and do something physical.”
Dwayne went on to say that Special Olympics in general is geared towards producing competitive athletes. While that is good, it’s important that the athletes have fun too. “Our focus here is the community.”
Lacombe and District Special Olympics has 40 athletes and about 25% of them are from outside the City. Those athletes participate in either bowling, swimming, softball or a combination thereof.
Also, the club adds new sports for the athletes as it grows. Dwayne said they are currently looking at introducing Bocce to the club to supplement or act as an alternative to the club’s other summer sport, softball.
In each sport there is a core group of athletes that are a little more on the competitive side and partake in tournaments. Others still compete, but more in a kind of recreational league setting, said Dwayne. For example, with its bowling team, the most popular sport it offers, Lacombe & District Special Olympics generally takes about 20 of its 36 bowlers to tournaments in Red Deer and Olds.
In addition to being a parent and chair, Dwayne is also coach of the softball team within the program. He said that the important things to remember when coaching Special Olympics are patience, the need for visual instruction and increased need for safety.
“You don’t want to get anybody hurt, you don’t want to get anybody discouraged,” said Dwayne.
Dwayne went on to say that, he enjoys coaching the team and continues to do so because of the friendships made through the program and not just because his son is involved in it.
“They bring you into their lives, they consider you as a friend,” said Dwayne. “For me, that’s a big part of it.”
Next week on April 29, Lacombe and District Special Olympics will wrap up the winter half of its season with its awards night.
The club is also always looking for more coaches and volunteers to help with the program, said Dwayne. Anyone interested in getting involved with coaching can contact Dwayne Campbell at 403-782-6921.