DUBUQUE– Special Olympics Iowa is honored to announce the selection of Rob Wagner of North Liberty as Special Olympics North America’s 2013 coach of the year. Wagner was presented with the national award during the 2014 Special Olympics Iowa State Winter Games in Dubuque Jan. 14.
The coach of the year award was established in the late 1980s and is given annually to an active, certified Special Olympics coach who has met several criteria, particularly their having made a significant and demonstrable impact on local Special Olympics programs and their communities. There are more than 120,000 coaches within Special Olympics North America, providing instruction and competition in more than 32 sports. The impressive scope and contributions of all those coaches puts this momentousness award into perspective.
“Rob Wagner is dedicated to Special Olympics Iowa and our athletes,” said SOIA president and CEO Hal Pittman. “He embraces all aspects of Special Olympics, and encourages every athlete to reach their full potential while creating and celebrating the spirit of being part of a team. We are extraordinarily pleased that Rob’s dedication to Special Olympics Iowa athletes has been recognized at the highest levels of sport. He is the epitome of what a great Special Olympics coach should be.”
Wagner is an active sports enthusiast, and his background as a competitive runner and professional ski instructor has had a positive impact on Special Olympics Iowa athletes and athletes across the U.S. Among his many outstanding accomplishments, Wagner has increased the number of athletes in the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department Special Olympics program from 400 to 518 athletes. He has established a local athlete leadership program; served as an advocate for inclusion and community involvement; introduced more competitions and weekly trainings; and established Iowa’s flag football program based on athlete interest.
Wagner has tailored programs for athletes of all levels, and provided leadership on the coaches’ advisory and training committees. He values coaching education, and has served in major coaching leadership roles including Iowa’s head softball coach at each of the three National Games, as a softball coach during the 1999 World Games, and as an alpine ski coach at the 2005 World Games.
Wagner mentors university students, and several have continued as volunteers and hold full-time positions with Special Olympics. Furthermore, he has mentored athletes and coaches throughout the state so that they, too, could reach their maximum potential.
After the flood of 2008, Wagner personally saw to it that athletes had facilities to continue training and raised funds to purchase new equipment so they had the equipment they needed to compete.
The 2013 coach of the year finalists represent Special Olympics North America’s most exemplary coaches– true leaders and dedicated volunteers who serve as role models to other coaches, inside and outside of Special Olympics. For the first time in the history of the award, two winners were named this year: sharing the honor with Wagner is Jennifer Walsh of Massachusetts.
“Rob embodies Special Olympics’ commitment to providing every athlete with the quality coaching they deserve,” said Special Olympics North America president Bob Gobrecht. “Rob represents the best of the best amongst hundreds of thousands of excellent volunteer coaches. His commitment to, and deep compassion for, the athletes of Special Olympics should inspire us all to do more and reach further.”
Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA), a statewide nonprofit organization, provides training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in all 99 counties of Iowa. SOIA offers 23 Olympic-style sports to nearly 11,000 athletes and Unified Sports partners year-round.