MARTIN, Tenn. – Coaches are often special people, and they often have the privilege of coaching special people. Dr. Clinton Smith, UT Martin assistant professor of special education, did just that when he attended the Special Olympics USA National Games held June 14-21, in New Jersey.
Smith attended the 2006, 2010 and then this year’s National Games as a coach. He recently applied for an athletics coach’s position for the 2015 World Games to be held in Los Angeles, Calif., which includes more than 7,000 athletes from 170 countries. For all of his efforts, he was recently awarded the Kiwanis Louisiana-Mississippi-West Tennessee District Teacher of the Year, which included a $250 gift for Special Olympics. He was also honored earlier this year as the Tennessee Education Association’s Distinguished Educator for Higher Education
Smith served as the head coach for the Team Tennessee Athletics Track and Field team. Smith coached 10 Tennessee athletes who participated in weeklong track and field events, including: 100m, 200m, 400m, 4x100m relays, long jump and softball throw. The Tennessee Athletics Team won a total of 17 medals: six gold, four silver and seven bronze. The men’s 4x100m relay team won bronze in their division, missing silver by just a .23 of a second difference in time.
“This was an amazing opportunity for me to coach some outstanding Special Olympics athletes from across Tennessee. These athletes showed true dedication and confidence in their desire to win like no other,” Smith said. “These athletes always inspire me to be a better person but also remind me to take time to slow down and have some fun. Sometimes we get so busy with our lives we tend to forget to do that.”
The Special Olympians took Smith’s advice and had time for fun beyond the games. Non-competition activities included visiting the New Jersey boardwalk, complete with rides and games; participating in a dinner cruise on the Hudson River with a view of Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty; and attending a baseball game featuring the Trenton Thunder, the New York Yankees’ minor league team.
Athletes also took part in Healthy Athletes, where they received a full health screening, including hearing, vision, dental, foot care and blood pressure screenings. They participated in the opening and closing ceremonies, attended by celebrities, including model and actress Brooklyn Decker; NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams; WWE Stars Big Show and Daniel Otunga; actress Jane Lynch; and Special Olympics International CEO Tim Shriver. Many celebrities and professional athletes visited the game sites and awarded medals to the athletes.
“The Special Olympics USA National Games was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some of the athletes. By being a part of these games, these athletes learned more about building confidence, friendship and teamwork,” Smith said. “These kids had a chance to compete at a national level, and they rose to the challenge by showing the nation that they are champions in their individual track and field events.”
Special Olympics Tennessee sent 88 Special Olympians and 32 coaches and caddies to participate in athletics, aquatics, bocce, power lifting, golf, tennis, traditional basketball, unified basketball and flag football. More than 3,500 athletes, 1,000 coaches and over 10,000 volunteers attended the National Games, which are held every four years.
Suggested Photo Caption
MARTIN, Tenn., July 21, 2014 – SPECIAL ATHLETES – Dr. Clinton Smith, (back row, far right), served as the head coach for the Team Tennessee Athletics Track and Field team, pictured. The team won a total of 17 medals at this year’s Special Olympic Games, held June 14-21 in New Jersey.