Volunteer Spotlight: Alicia Meyers
Alicia Meyers decided to take a leap of faith this season and coach virtually. As a 15-year veteran of Special Olympics Oregon coaching and volunteering, working with our athletes is nothing new for her. Doing so while not gathering in person certainly was. Before committing to coaching virtual basketball this season, Alicia admits to being nervous about how she could still make the connections with her athletes, to create that important team culture experience and to even figure out where each player would be able to practice. Alicia thought to herself, “There is so much more that happens than just sport. How do you replicate that?”, but she missed coaching so she signed up and got to work.
After reaching out to the athletes assigned to her, she was able to make sure that each person had a basketball and a plan on when and where they could safely practice their chosen basketball skills. This season presented the additional challenge of some extreme weather (there is a reason why people typically play basketball INSIDE this time of year). This was just another challenge to overcome.
For Alicia, it has been rewarding getting back into coaching, reconnecting with people that she missed, and hearing about their successes. She was assigned athletes from her community where she also serves on the Linn County Local Program Management Team as the Sports Manager. Since many of these athletes already knew her and each other, she felt it was important that she create team-building time beyond the basketball skills work itself. During weekly video conference check-in sessions, Alicia stresses making connections and team bonding. “It is a chance for each athlete to report on how their training is going, but I don’t care if you did not practice that week. I still want you to show up for the team check-in call so that you can cheer on your fellow teammates like we would do in person…only virtually.”
One of her favorite moments took place on a video call where Alicia was leading the team in a stretching exercise only to look up at her screen and see nothing but six different pairs of feet in the air. She said it made her laugh and remember all of the fun, spontaneous moments that volunteering as a coach can bring.
The athletes she is coaching this season also bonded through creating a “cheer video” for all of their fellow Winter Virtual Games participants which they uploaded through Flipgrid. The team coordinated a theme, costumes and scripted parts for each member to contribute. In the end, Alicia describes it as “so extra” as she reflects on the experience with pride, “This is how I knew they were my team.”
When asked what she would say to others who may be considering coaching athletes virtually in the future. Without hesitation, Alicia says, “Go for it. Why not? Don’t let technology be a barrier. There are so many resources between SOOR staff, the website and the great network of other coaches and volunteers around the state. Everyone is there to help.”
Alicia, who works as a Mental Health Therapist, admits that she is as ready as anybody to get back to in-person experiences. She also appreciates the importance of keeping people safe and training remotely during a time when the risk is still too great to gather. She estimates that she has made several thousand masks so far (and still counting). She donates these to friends, family and people in her community. Alicia does see a silver lining from the challenges faced over the past year, “Athletes are being asked and empowered to solve problems in new ways. Virtual sports and other similar experiences are helping our athletes to learn more independence and skills to be self-starters.”