After a summer of patience, Quesnel Special Olympics was able to get back on track.
The club participated in a virtual athletics meet on Sept. 2, with athletes logging times to share across the region.
Rick Prosk is the program co-ordinator and head coach for track and field for Quesnel Special Olympics. He said the organization has taken a very cautious approach to returning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The reasoning behind that is [Special Olympics BC] don’t want to move ahead too quickly and have to shut things down,” he said. “Not just for Special Olympics, but the public at large. In Special Olympics’ case, it’s going to be a very slow process.”
Athletics in Quesnel was run as a pilot program, used as a potential example for other clubs across the province.
“We ran those events as if they were track events at a track meet, with official times recorded, official distances for long jump,” Prosk said. “Then we submitted those times to the provincial office who compiled the results.”
Demand was so high, Quesnel started a second track and field group running on a separate day. COVID-19 restrictions mean the groups cannot share coaches, staff or equipment.
A return to some form of competition, even if it was virtual, was welcomed by the athletes.
“Special Olympics is a competitive sport organization — we’re not just there to train athletes; we’re here to support them in competition,” Prosk said. “We have to find some way of staging competitions given the reality that we have.”
National and provincial competitions that were set to take place in the summer of 2021 have already been cancelled.
With a lack of competitions to prepare for, Prosk has adjusted his coaching and training techniques, focusing on skill development and individual achievement.
He’s been forced to get creative to create the right atmosphere, including mini-competitions in training to some success. He said a long jump competition he structured like a high jump meet, with athletes shooting for a target distance, led some athletes to crush past personal bests.
“I coach pretty much year-round,” Prosk said. “To have those months off, where I wasn’t involved in any coaching and had little to do with Special Olympics — I missed it. It’s great to be back.”
Prosk said Special Olympics Quesnel can run a golf program this fall as well.
Other winter sports are in a pilot phase across the province, but Prosk hopes to see a return soon.
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