With the first week of July comes the kick-off of National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month, National Picnic Month, and the patriotic spirit for the 4th of July. But what you may not know is amidst all the summer celebration also comes the start of the Special Olympics 2018 USA Games. The 2018 USA Games take place every 2 years with athletes from all over the United States. This year they are held in Seattle, Washington. This special and monumental event began with an opening ceremony on Sunday at the University of Washington’s Huskey Stadium to honor the 3,000 athletes that will be competing in the Games from Sunday, July 1st to Friday, July 6th. The Special Olympics flag was also raised all the way to the top of the Space Needle to honor the Games, the athletes, the ideals of Special Olympics, and its 50th anniversary.
One of the biggest goals of Special Olympics is to encourage acceptance of all individuals of varying abilities. Each day Special Olympics strives towards inclusion in athletics, and these 2018 USA Games are just one of the many ways in which they will showcase that. In addition to celebrating these games, Special Olympics participants will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics in honor of Eunice Shriver, who was the founder of Special Olympics and the one who started this movement towards inclusive sports. These Games are an impactful way to commemorate the road that Eunice Shriver paved, as well as all the accomplishments and progress that these athletes are making today.
The 2018 USA Games will consist of 14 different sports that athletes from all over the U.S. will be competing in over the span of a week. Specifically, Team Florida will have over 230 athletes competing in Athletics (track and field), Basketball, Bowling, Bocce, Flag Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Soccer, Softball, Stand Up Paddle, Swimming, Tennis, and Volleyball. Team Florida headed to Seattle in style as the Miami Marlins baseball team hosted a special send-off on Friday, June 29th. Among these athletes were our friends from LEAP South Florida, who will be representing the Special Olympics Florida Gymnastics Team. The athletes of LEAP South Florida joined us last year here at Balance 180 for the 2017 Special Olympics Area Games. We will be cheering them on all the way from Gainesville as they go for the gold!
For more information and updates on the event, visit specialolympicsusagames.org. Results for Team Florida and specific events, such as Gymnastics, can also be found here!
Written by Casey McLaughlin
Unlike most coaches, Andrew Fenton wasn’t interested in medals, proper form or high scores. What he did like was the strength he acquired while training as a gymnast. Being strong gave him confidence, pride and a sense of identity. Even today Andrew can recall his reputation at school being contingent on whether he won the latest arm wrestling match. “I just remember that being important to me,” he said.
Strength training and conditioning has long been a part of Andrew’s life. At the age of 12 years old, Andrew’s dad decided to bring him to the gym and taught him to weight lift. From there his love of fitness began to evolve, focusing on eating healthy, pushing himself for personal bests, and ultimately getting his personal training certification. Eleven years later Andrew still lifts weights every day.
Now as a gymnastics coach, Andrew likes to teach the kids how to be strong and push themselves. Not just physically, but also mentally. He finds ways to motivate them and cheer them on. He shares his passion for fitness, hard work, and gaining strength with athletes in all of his classes.
“I want to teach them how to discover the enjoyment of effort.”
As a Balance 180 certified adaptive coach, Andrew works with children of all abilities. He leads them in activities and helps children feel unique and important, throwing them his signature smile and an encouraging comment as they give their best try and accomplish a new milestone. Andrew has enjoyed learning to work with kids with special needs and has taken his skills outside of the gym to help children in other settings.
In the summer of 2017, Andrew traveled to Nairobi, Kenya where he volunteered with a group of physical therapists treating children with disabilities in a facility called Heshima. Heshima is a children’s center in Kenya that helps children with special needs get the resources and attention they require.
“In Kenya, children with special needs are treated as though they are diseased or cursed. Mothers are viewed as being responsible for these disabilities and are ostracized from their communities and families,” Andrew said.
During his trip, it was Andrew’s job to assist the physical therapists, get the right equipment and socialize with the children. He enjoyed spending quality time with the kids, helping them during their physical therapy exercises and engaging in thoughtful conversations with their mothers.
“It was the perfect way to marry what I’m passionate about and being able to help other people.”
Andrew is one of a kind and is determined to have an impact on everyone he meets. His passion for fitness and wellness of others will serve him well as he pursues a career in physical therapy. Thank you, Coach Andrew, for sharing your story.
Written by Julie Walter.
Dads aren’t just ordinary men; they are storytellers, jokesters, role models, caregivers and our personal heroes. Throughout our lives, they continue to teach and support us. Whether it be recording our first steps or hiding tears as they wave us off to college, we will never stop learning from our fathers. So we asked our coaches, what the most important thing they have learned from their dads and here’s what they had to say:
“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.” We love you, dad!
Written by Julie Walter
Summer is finally here and school is out! Along with the excitement of lazy days by the pool comes the busiest vacation time of the year.
While many vacations are typically jam-packed with activities, athletes typically do not have time or equipment to practice their sport. But have no fear because there are many ways to stay fit and physically active while on vacation. Whether you’re in a hotel, a cabin in the woods, or a house on the beach there are many simple, yet fun exercises that you can do with your child to keep up their cardio and maintain strength. This will also help for a smoother transition when athletes return to their sport.
A lot of families pack up and hit the road for long road trips. While long drives can be a beautiful way to take in the scenery, children can also feel confined to the back seat. A good way to break up the drive and relieve some of that energy is to take full advantage of rest stops. If there is a grassy area that is safe and away from traffic, you could play a game of red light, green light or a quick game of tag. You can also give them a set of jumping jacks that they have to complete as fast as they can. This can be turned into a family challenge and see who can finish the set of jumping jacks the quickest.
At a house or cabin somewhere in the woods for a week or two? Not a problem. Hiking and walking on trails is a great physical activity that will help keep those legs moving and get that heart rate up. While you’re on a trail, you can make a fun challenge by playing Simon Says or Follow the Leader. You can start by walking then switching between variation of runs, such as skipping, “high knees,” sprinting, and jumping jacks, just to name a few.
If you’ve ever tried running on the beach you can attest to the fact that it’s much more difficult than any flat road. Whether you play a running game close to the shore line or higher up on the soft sand, you’re guaranteed to get a great workout.
In addition to that, here are some strength-building exercises:
- Lunge walks down the beach (lower body)
- Mountain climbers (lower body)
- Shuttle runs down the beach (lower body)
- Games on the beach
- Beach volleyball, frisbee, or even playing catch
Let’s say you’ve decided to go to Walt Disney World or some other destination for a week and you will be staying in a hotel. Walking around the theme parks all day is certainly a great way to keep moving and stay active, but if you find you have downtime in the hotel, here is a list of exercises that can be done in the hotel.
- Push up position hold with high fives OR push ups with high fives (core and biceps)
- Step ups on a chair (Quadricep and calf muscles)
- Squat to stand on a chair (quadricep muscles)
By: Casey McLaughlin