Public Safety Insights Newsletter: What Special Olympics Athletes Can Teach First Responders

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August 5, 2015 VOLUME 3, ISSUE 14
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What Special Olympics Athletes Can Teach First Responders
Public Safety Insight: The Special Olympics World Games that just ended in Los Angeles demonstrated the similarities between first responders and the athletes, and offered valuable life lessons.

Held in the U.S. for the first time since 1999, the Summer Special Olympics World Games brought 6,500 athletes and over 2,000 coaches from 165 countries to Los Angeles for nine days of celebration and competition. More than 30,000 volunteers and 500,000 spectators cheered the athletes, who competed in 25 sports. Media reports say that 27 new world records were set during the Games.

Though the event was billed as the world’s largest sporting event in 2015, much more than athleticism was on display. The Special Olympics athletes’ oath sets the context: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Though the athletes love to win, the real test for them is whether they do their best.

In addition to enabling individuals with intellectual disabilities to compete in athletics, Special Olympics fosters acceptance by educating the public, offering support for athletes’ families, and providing training and medical care for its athletes free of charge. Those who attend Special Olympics events never forget the joy and inspiration they experience by watching the athletes compete.

You may be surprised to hear that Special Olympics athletes and first responders share many characteristics. Both groups:

  • train hard.         
  • are competitive when tested.
  • prioritize the team over the individual.
  • always have each others’ backs.
  • take pride in doing and being their best.
  • bond over their common experiences that “outsiders” cannot share.

Here are some lessons that first responders can learn from Special Olympics athletes:

  • Take the time to experience the joy in a job well done.
  • Celebrate the efforts as well as the victories.
  • Graciously accept the appreciation shown by your “fans” for your efforts.
  • Don’t allow others to define you because of perceived limitations.
  • Accept that doing your best, whatever the outcome, is good enough.
  • Have the courage to be yourself, and allow others to do the same.

Many first responder agencies and professionals are long-time supporters of their local Special Olympics organizations. Why not join them? Experiencing the camaraderie and joy expressed by Special Olympics athletes during their competitions is inspirational. I invite you to attend an event in your area. Take your kids or your grandkids. The experience will change your lives.

If you would like to read about what Special Olympics athletes can teach you about diversity, inclusion, and acceptance, take a look at our article Lessons in Inclusion from Special Olympics Athletes. To read other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

To find articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


©2015 Pat Lynch | Public Safety Insights

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