Articles in Coaches

SOIA Night With the Bulldogs

Drake LogoOn Tuesday, February 7 Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) athletes, family and friends are invited to attend the Drake University Men’s Basketball game against Illinois State. The game begins at 7 p.m. at the Knapp Center on Drake’s campus.

To purchase tickets to the game, go to and enter the promo code “Olympics.” Tickets are $5 each. There is a processing fee of $1 per ticket order.

Tickets will also be sold at

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2017 Summer Games Team Bocce Quota Request Form

The State Office is in the process of organizing the 2017 Summer Games Bocce Tournament. To fairly allocate the 110 team slots available for bocce please let us know the maximum number of teams your delegation would like to have in the tournament. Competition will be held outside, east of the Maple-Willow-Larch Dorms to provide more space for competition. The team tournament will be held on May 25 while the singles tournament will be held on May 26.

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Staff Column: Kathy Irving Reflects on 27 Years with SOIA

staff-kathyI remember the very first time I attended a Special Olympics Iowa event. I had signed myself up, along with my two children, to be volunteers at the State Summer Games in Ames. This was when we were using an outdoor track at ISU. As we walked toward the track, we continually had athletes come up to us telling us they were there to compete or to ask us what we were there for. We heard nothing but positives about how hard they had worked, how much fun they were having, and that we could be their friend. I was hooked before I ever got started.

Little did I know what they meant by the word friend. For eight years, we kept coming back. Every year I made more “new friends.” I ran the 50 meter dash and worked the relay races on Saturday. Later I became a member of the Summer Games Steering Committee. I was amazed at how much work went into just putting together the Summer Games. I couldn’t get enough of Special Olympics. I dreamed of working for them full time, but in reality, I knew the odds were slim.

But one Saturday morning at the State Summer Games, the CEO at that time, Bob Ligouri, was standing beside me as a race was going on. I was my usual obnoxious self, screaming at my new friends to keep up the good work. When the race was over, he asked me if I had ever thought about switching careers. I looked at him, very puzzled as to why he would ask that. He then asked me, “How would you like to work for Special Olympics Iowa?” I told him I dreamed of working for them, but knew I wouldn’t qualify. He said yes you would and asked me to meet with him and Pam Wagner the following Monday. On Monday morning he offered me the job, and I said yes.

Thus began the most wonderful 27 years of my life.

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31st Annual Winter Games Coming to Dubuque

_dsc0174-800x532Over 300 athletes from across the state are set to compete in the 2017 Special Olympics Iowa Winter Games January 9-10 in Dubuque. More than 130 coaches and chaperones, as well as 150 volunteers, will donate their time to serve the athletes and make the event a success.

Children and adult athletes of all abilities will participate in sports like Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, short track speed skating and figure skating. The Grand Harbor Center, Sundown Mountain, Albrecht Acres and Mystique Community Ice Center will host the competitions and activities.

“Our athletes are very excited to showcase their skills and abilities at the Winter Games,” said SOIA Director of Sports & Advanced Competitions, Rhonda Schwarzkopf. “Their dedication is amazing to watch. Winter Games would not be possible without the support and commitment of athletes’ families, coaches and our volunteers.”

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2018 Special Olympics USA Games Information

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will be held in Seattle, WA July 1-6. Special Olympics Iowa is now accepting general applications for both athletes and coaches.


Athletes and coaches interested in applying for the  USA Games are to submit completed applications to by 06/01/2017.


Please direct any questions regarding the USA Games to Rhonda Schwarzkopf at


2018 Special Olympics USA Games Application
Fillable PDF | Word
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Bruce Wilson Receives Simpson College Coaches Hall of Fame Honor

bruce-hofWest Region Director of Field Services, Bruce Wilson, was inducted into the Simpson College Coaches Hall of Fame in October. Before joining the Special Olympics Iowa staff, Wilson served as the head coach of Simpson’s men’s basketball team for 25 years.

Membership in the Coaches Hall of Fame at Simpson is reserved for coaches who have made significant contributions to the college, athletic program, his or her sport, and the students of the college. Wilson is the winningest coach in the school’s history. He went 341-305 in his 25 years as head coach, won three Iowa Conference Championships, and made three trips to the NCAA Tournament. He’s been named the Iowa Coach of the Year three times and was named the Division III West Region Coach of the Year in 1992. 

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Staff Column: Class A Applications

As the schools and facilities start gearing up for another fantastic year of Special Olympics Iowa sport competitions, I have one item to refresh/remind you on – the staff-sallyClass A Volunteer Application. My name is Sally Briggs and I process all the Class A applications. We have updated our website with the Class A Volunteer information.  From the home page hover over “Get Involved” and click on “Class A Volunteers” or use this link.

Here are some common tips to remember when filling out the Class A Volunteer application:

  • Who should fill out the Class A application?
    • Anyone who has direct contact with athletes, in a position of authority, supervision or trust of athletes
    • Coach, Unified partner, chaperone, one on one, board member, LETR (Law Enforcement Torch Run) volunteers, Committee members, anyone that transports, stays over night with athletes, handles substantial amounts of cash or other assets for Special Olympics Iowa

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Meet Nancy Shannon; Area Director, Coach, Volunteer and Friend of SOIA

1956868_10201108152225670_4898521294783876269_oNancy Shannon (middle in red) with SOIA athletes.


Do you know someone who has done it all? We sure do! Our Area Director of the East region here in Iowa, Nancy Shannon, has done just about everything. She’s been coaching and volunteering with Special Olympics Iowa since 1978, has served on the Board of Directors, and has traveled with athletes to State, National and World Games.

Nancy, a native of Long Grove, Iowa, got involved with SOIA while she was working as a special education teacher. When she attended a class where Special Olympics athletes were training her curiosity was peaked, leading her to sign up to volunteer for a Special Olympics event. It wasn’t long before she was hooked and started coaching.

Today, Nancy serves as the Area Director for SOIA’s East region. Her job entails many duties, including organizing and running four or five events each year from things like bowling and track and field to golf tournaments and Challenge Days. “I have a really good group of coaches that work well together and really care about the athletes,” she says.

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Spread the Word to End the Word at Iowa State Capitol March 1

spread-the-word-logoSpecial Olympics Iowa will be hosting Spread the Word to End the Word Day March 1 from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Iowa State Capitol first floor rotunda. Spread the Word to End the Word is a national campaign to help make a stand against a word that has gained popularity in culture, but is offensive to many. The “R-word” has found a place in common language and seems to be accepted by most., despite the fact that its use, casual or otherwise, is hurtful to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those that love them.

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FIT Focus: March to Summer Games

FIT-logo-verticalAs a continuation of the FIT Program and the goal of helping Special Olympic athletes build healthy habits, March to Summer Games will begin March 1 and will include 250 participants. March to Summer Games is a walking club that allows Special Olympics athletes and Unified Partners opportunities to build a habit of moving and becoming more active. It is a flexible program through Special Olympics Iowa that should be easy to maintain.

Each club will meet at least once per week (or more if desired) to walk. Miles will be added up and used in a competition format where Special Olympics athletes and teams with the highest average miles will receive awards at Summer Games. The FIT Program pre- and post-assessments will be done to record fitness improvement.  The 11-week program will begin March 1 and end May 15.  If you are interested in March to Summer Games contact Bruce Wilson or Stephanie Boylan

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