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March 2, 2018

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Former students Ashton Warren '17 and Holly Rawles '17 helped coach the Special Olympics in previous years.

Photo provided 


MU Students Coach Local Special Olympics


Teresa Masteller  

Students at Manchester University studying in the adapted physical education program in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences are taking part in the Special Olympics of Wabash County, which is a year-round program that caters to athletes with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Special Olympics Indiana at soindiana.org states that they provide “year-round training and competitions in more than 20 sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. According to the mission statement, “through sports, Special Olympics Indiana athletes are seeing themselves for their abilities, not disabilities.”

As part of a service learning project for his Adapted Physical Activity course, Dr. Kim Duchane and his students planned a program to coach the athletes in the track and field in the spring for the Special Olympics. Because the distance between the training location in Wabash and North Manchester prohibited some athletes from participating, the local coaching will help prepare athletes for the competition in Indianapolis.

Manchester University students serve as the coaches at two schools, Manchester Elementary School and Manchester Junior High School, and they serve one homeschooled athlete. They provide weekly instruction on running, jumping and throwing to students aged eight years and older.

In addition to the weekly training sessions, Manchester hosts two on-campus practices during the spring, and they will work at the Area 5 Track and Field Meet in May.

Although not an Olympic sport, bowling is a popular activity in the Special Olympics. In addition to the track and field program, other Manchester students volunteer to be part of the Unified Bowling program that the Special Olympics offers. Each Sunday in the springtime, six MU varsity student-athletes bowl with the participants in the program. “Unified is a program where athletes with intellectual disabilities compete with athletes without disabilities,” Duchane said.  

According to specialolympics.org, bowling can be a “particularly beneficial sport to people with intellectual disabilities, irrespective of their age or sports abilities, since it ensures physical exercise and at the same time participation and social integration.”

In April, the 12 athletes plus their coach Bryndon Paulson will travel down to Indianapolis to compete against the other HCAC (Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) universities.  Last year, Manchester University won second place in that tournament.

Special Olympics Manchester strives for all children and youth to be accepted and respected members of the North Manchester community by having a chance to be seen as productive citizens.  “Our goal is to provide an athletic experience for individuals with intellectual disabilities,” Duchane said. “Most of the time, without our support, they would not get to compete in sports.  We also want the athletes to form a positive relationship with the university students and make an impact on their life.”

The nonprofit program Special Olympics Manchester provides sports training and athletic competition to over 50 athletes, children and youth with intellectual disabilities in the northern Indiana community. Special Olympics Manchester is just a small part of the Special Olympics, which reaches 12,000 athletes in Indiana, and more than four million worldwide with intellectual disabilities.

According to soindiana.org, the Special Olympics wants to “empower people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential and develop their skills through year-round sports training and competition.”

The Special Olympics program provides a variety of Olympic-style sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in need of opportunities that aim to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and much more. This competition allows those involved to establish skills in friendship and community with other athletes and those around them.

Special Olympics Indiana relies entirely on corporate, civic and individual donations that can be made either online, or by phone call.

For more information about Special Olympics Manchester, please contact Kim Duchane at kaduchane@manchester.edu.