Two Years on the Blog Today!

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Happy second birthday to my blog!

When I started this blog, I was so nervous to have people read my writing that I almost didn’t do it. Even though I still get nervous about it sometimes, I’m glad I started it and created an opportunity for myself to learn more about blogging, writing, and the Olympic Movement. I hope that reading this blog for the past two years has been fun, informative, and inspiring, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Here’s to many more years for the Olympics of Blogs!

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Trading Tuesday: Graduation

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My family and I outside of Madison Square Garden

Two weeks ago, I graduated from Pace University. It was a really fun day, and I was excited that my family could come to New York City to watch it. Thank you, Mom, Dad, Liz, Adri, and Derek for coming! It meant a lot to me. ❤

unnamedThese are the three pins I wore during graduation. They are some of my favorite pins out of my entire collection because they are symbols for the amazing experiences I’ve had at major sporting events. Every time I look at them, I remember all the people I met and all the things I was able to do, and I feel proud to have volunteered at the LA 2015 Special Olympics World Games, the Rio 2016 Olympics, and the Austria 2017 Special Olympics World Games during my college experience. Without volunteering at these Games (and getting these pins), I would not be where I am today. Those experiences were so valuable to me and helped teach me more about the world, myself, the Olympic Movement, and humanity. My experience at Pace and in New York City taught me how to push myself and make my dreams happen.

 

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You can see the pins proudly displayed on my Stole of Gratitude!

I wore these pins on a blue stole called a Stole of Gratitude. At the time, it seemed to be the only place where they could go and actually be seen, but now, it’s perfect that they were on that stole. I am so thankful for those experiences, and I have immense gratitude for all the opportunities I’ve had so far in my life and that I will have. I gave my Stole of Gratitude to my thesis and academic advisor, Bill. He really deserves it for helping me so much before, during, and after my time at Pace.

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Bill and I after the ceremony

Thank you, Pace, my family, the Honors College, and my friends for a wonderful college experience! Amazing Awaits!

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My cap

My Experience at the Austria 2017 World Winter Games

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With the mascots!

One week ago today, the Closing Ceremony for the Austria 2017 World Winter Games happened, and although it’s sad that the Games are over, I had such an amazing time that I can only feel grateful. The people who live in Graz welcomed all of the athletes, volunteers, families, and coaches and made the World Games into a special experience.

My last day volunteering was March 23, and it was one of the best days of my life. I volunteered for the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP). I ran the soccer station, and it was really fun to see the athletes get recognized and cheered for by Unified cheerleaders, their caretakers, and their Unified partners. It was awesome to see all of them up on stage receiving medals and smiling so wide! Later that night, I just made it to watch Eloise, a British figure skater whose parents I had become friends with on the bus to the Opening Ceremony, compete in her free skate and win seventh in the world in Level 4 Figure Skating! After watching Figure Skating for a long time, I went to a special party held to thank volunteers and tried a lot of Austrian desserts with people who had also been volunteering at MATP. That day, my heart felt so full of love and happiness. There’s no other place in the world where you are able to meet people from so many different countries and cultures and become friends with them.

At the 1987 World Games, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics, said, “You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.” That definitely happened at this World Games where 2,700 athletes from 107 countries competed. Medals were won, friendships were made, and the world was changed.We, the volunteers, spectators, families, Special Olympics staff, and the people of Graz made these Games special for the athletes. They truly were the stars of the Games.

Some of the best moments of the Games for me were:

  • Meeting athletes from around the world and cheering them on, especially those from Team USA, Team Canada, Team Great Britain, Team Austria, and Team South Africa!
  • Becoming an honorary member of Team South Africa and getting to eat lunch with them and seeing them compete!
  • Becoming friends with fans and volunteers from around the world!
  • Meeting Tim Shriver, the Chairman of Special Olympics and Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s son.
  • Meeting Mary Davis, the CEO of Special Olympics International, again (she gave a presentation at Pace University last year!).
  • Experiencing the culture of Graz.
  • Getting to see some of the people I had met at previous volunteer experiences/internships again.
  • Dancing with Team Austria on the first night I got to Graz and doing the conga line with them!
  • The award ceremony for the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP). The athletes were so happy to get medals, and they loved the applause!

Here’s a video summarizing my trip!

Trading Tuesday: Austria 2017

unnamedThis pin is the perfect choice for this week’s Trading Tuesday because I just made it today! Currently, I’m volunteering at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. This pin is awesome because I ❤ Special Olympics, and it’s really cool to have my picture on a pin!

I have been having a wonderful time meeting athletes, fans, and volunteers from around the world. People are completely open with friendship, and they are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. So many people have helped me since I’ve come here and gone out of their way to do so. I think everyone recognizes that we are here for the athletes. This is their time, and by making sure the focus is on them, the athletes’ happiness, kindness, and openness is able inspire everyone else. I know I belong within the Special Olympics community because it is one huge, international family, and these Games have confirmed that. Even if people have different abilities, languages, races, or religions, Special Olympics proves that everyone can come together and find similarities.

Saturday night was the Opening Ceremony in Schladming, and I’m so happy I was able to go. It was so beautiful. The entire ceremony focused on the athletes as the stars. Even though it was pouring and bitterly cold the entire time, the stands were completely filled, and it didn’t stop people from cheering for each country as it paraded out into the stadium.

In Messe Graz, the place where Floor Hockey and Floor Ball are located and where I’m volunteering, there is a Coca Cola station where you can take a picture holding a Special Olympics pillow, and then have it made into a pin. Coca Cola is one of the sponsors of the Games, and they had such a cool idea with these pins.

My last day volunteering is on Thursday. So far, I’ve been working in the cafeteria where athletes, coaches, staff, and volunteers eat, but tomorrow and Thursday, I’m volunteering for the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP).

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Go Team USA! Go Special Olympics!

An Interview with Team USA’s Unified Floor Hockey Coach

The Special Olympics World Winter Games start a week from today, so to start getting everyone excited to cheer on Team USA, I interviewed David Durandisse, the coach of the Unified Floor Hockey team from New York City that will compete in the Games.

The Olympics of Blogs: What are you most excited for about Austria?

David: I’m excited to be visiting Europe and being a part of this huge event. I remember our first practice and now that we are this close to departure, I’m excited to see all the work come together and pay off.

The Olympics of Blogs: How were you chosen to coach the team?

David: I was offered the opportunity to join the team and I accepted.

The Olympics of Blogs: How long has your team been training for the World Games?

David: We have been practicing since September, so about 6 months.

The Olympics of Blogs: How has your team been practicing to prepare for the World Games?

David: We have been conditioning to get their stamina up; live scrimmages to get a feel for the game against opponents. We have done a bunch of drills and live game scenarios to map out what we want to do in games.

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The Olympics of Blogs: Will you and your team walk in the Opening Ceremony for Team USA?

David: We will be walking in Opening Ceremonies.

The Olympics of Blogs: Do you think they’ll win gold?

David: I believe we have the players to win gold. We have a combination of size and speed that should work to our advantage to create scoring opportunities. I believe if we can put that together we will surely win gold.

The Olympics of Blogs: After coaching a Unified team, what do you think about Unified sports?

David: Unified sports is a great concept. I have seen two sides come together as one. Individuals who may have not had a chance to come together, now have that opportunity through unified sports. They have created friendships that will last a lifetime.

The Olympics of Blogs: What has been your favorite moment as a coach for Unified Floor Hockey?

David: Hanging out with the team and bonding with the coaches. We all started this journey months ago, and along the way we have shared many laughs on and off the court.

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You can watch Team USA’s Unified Floor Hockey team walk in the Opening Ceremony on ABC on March 18 from 2-5 pm ET!

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

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Happy New Year, everyone! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already over. 2016 was a big year for me, the Olympic Movement, and this blog.

Over the year, I celebrated one year of volunteering at Special Olympics; attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN; interviewed Jesse Owens’ daughter, Marlene Rankins Owen, and Matt Stutzman, a Paralympic archer; interned at Special Olympics NYC, Special Olympics Southern California, and LA 2024; volunteered at the Rio 2016 Olympics; presented my senior Honors thesis on introducing Special Olympics’ Unified Sports into the Olympics; and graduated from Pace University! I’m so thankful to have had such a great year, and I’m excited to see where 2017 will take me!

Here are some things I’m excited for in 2017:

  • Starting in January, I’m going to be an Assistant Swim Coach for Special Olympics Pennsylvania!
  • The three grand marshals of the Rose Bowl Parade (which is happening tomorrow) will be Greg Louganis, Janet Evans, and Allyson Felix.
  • I’m presenting my thesis at a conference in Pittsburgh in April!
  • In May, I’ll walk at my graduation!
  • My sister and my best friend are getting married this summer!
  • In September, we’ll finally learn which city will host the 2024 Olympics!
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These three Olympians will be welcoming 2017 at the Rose Bowl Parade tomorrow!

Here’s to a great 2017!

 

The 2015 Athlete Leadership Connection

IMG_0265On October 19, the Women’s Sports Foundation, a NYC nonprofit that promotes women in sports, hosted its first Athlete Leadership Connection. Held in the Morgan Stanley Headquarters in Times Square, the event brought together collegiate and professional female athletes, including Olympians and Paralympians.

IMG_0267.jpgThe main purpose of the day was to help collegiate and professional athletes with their futures. Women who were already professionals, whether in athletics or business, participated and led panels throughout the day that were designed to aid athletes who wanted to change from being an athlete into something else. Some of the panels were “Identifying Your Brand,” “Careers in Sports Journalism and Broadcasting,” “Financial Literacy,” and “Career Opportunities in Athletic Leadership.” There were even mock interviews set up with various companies.

I volunteered during the second half of the day, so I wasn’t able to see many of the panels. However, I was able to see the last one of the day and the one I think was coolest. “Project Connection” was very similar to Shark Tank, the show where entrepreneurs present their products to wealthy and influential people who could fund them.

The participating athletes were divided into three teams, and each team was given a concept. The teams had a very small amount of time to put together an idea worthy of being presented to an Angel, someone who could fund their idea. Then, they presented their work, and it was very fun to watch and listen.

The first was a Title IX App that was geared toward education about Title IX, a law that prohibits sexual discrimination in any sports or federally funded activity. They intended to start promoting it with high school students, so they would be able to know their rights before college. After their presentation, the Angels were able to ask questions in order to get more information. One of them asked, “What will we get back in return?” and an athlete answered, “Awareness.”

The second was a Fans in the Stands App that would be designed to get more fans for women’s sports. They would start the app with college students and then expand it to high school and professional sports. There would be a number of rewards and promotions that would benefit those who had the app and went to female athletes’  competitions and games.

The third was an idea called Candid Conversations. Female professional athletes would speak to current female student athletes on college campuses about transitioning from a sports-focused life to a career-focused life. It would be a speaker series similar to TED Talks that would help collegiate athletes develop professional skills. To start, there would be nine speeches at nine different universities with 1800 students reached.

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The winners!

After the athletes presented their ideas, the Angels went out of the room to discuss each one, and when they returned, they announced that they would give Candid Conversations $31,000 for the first year with an extra $20,000 to train the athlete speakers in public speaking. The second year, they would give $50,000 if the first year’s results were good. It was very exciting that the Angels agreed to fund one of the ideas! I look forward to hearing about how Candid Conversations is doing in 2016 and if it is funded again in 2017!

Here is a video of the day from the Women’s Sports Foundation:

 

For more information about the Athlete Leadership Connection and any of the other work the Women’s Sports Foundation does, here is its website:  http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org