My experience in Special Olympics
My experience in Special Olympics – Why it’s become important in my life.
There comes a time when after you first join something, you never know what might happen until you notice changes in your life down the road. Although change is a tough thing to go along with, it does feel great when it’s based on choices made. For me, being an athlete in Special Olympics was one choice that helped me make a change. Without Special Olympics, I don’t know what I would be to this day. The decision to become a Special Olympics athlete was something that helped me feel successful, open doors to new opportunities, as well as passing it along to inspire other athletes.
In the winter of 2005, I got involved in Special Olympics after my parents signed me up to participate in swimming. At first I had no idea what I got into until I won my first bronze and gold medal at the 2006 winter games. Since then, I was able to learn what Special Olympics can do for me, especially instilling a confidence, that I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it and work hard at it. In return, I was able to participate in bowling, basketball, flag football, and softball over the next 14 years. While being a Special Olympics athlete, I was able to participate as a walk-on in Varsity football and track and field at my high school. I also became the first child with a disability to participate on the football program and it was a huge accomplishment. If I didn’t participate, I don’t know where I would be today.
Becoming an athlete in Special Olympics was something that helped me become who I am today. Looking back on it now, I feel that it has given me the ability to be an athlete, but never be judged because I have a disability. Speaking as an individual on the spectrum, Autism has been my toughest opponent since I was diagnosed at 3.5 years old and there have been good days and bad days with it. The bad days I endured with Autism were as a victim of bullying because of kids making fun of me, and I would get worked up about it. However, on the good days I have with my disability, I believe I can do anything I want to do and never listen to what others say to me.
With the help of Special Olympics, I am able to pass on my experience in the sports I participated in along with confidence to other athletes as a Unified Track and Field coach at Auburn High School. One lesson I learned as an athlete that I pass along to athletes I coach today is to believe in yourself, and know that you can succeed as long as you give it your best, along with not worrying about anything else. In return, I was able to see tons of the athletes I coached succeed and never feel any pressure when they’re in qualifiers and state games. If I didn’t have this as a sense of motivation, then I would not be able to have this ability to drive them to be successful.
Mike Kelley is a 2014 graduate of Auburn High School in Auburn, Massachusetts and played on the Varsity football team for 3 seasons as the first special needs student to play on the team. He is now an assistant coach of the Auburn High School Unified Track & Field team. He competes in Special Olympics Massachusetts in the sports of bowling, swimming, basketball, flag football and softball and is a student at Worcester State University studying communications.