Special Olympics New York Coach Spotlight: Eric DeCarlis

Great coaching requires dedication, passion, energy, and more than a little time to spare. Just ask Central Region coach Eric DeCarlis.

“I can speak for so many as well as myself that Special Olympics is one of the most amazing experiences to be part of,” said Eric. “The environment, the vibe, and the events are incomparable. To see these beautiful athletes in their element is a blessing!”

After graduating from SUNY Brockport in 2004, Eric landed his first job at Upstate Cerebral Palsy in Utica, NY. Due to his background in sports and physical education, he joined local Special Olympics programs immediately. More than a decade later, Eric is still coaching basketball, bowling, and track & field, just to name a few.

“I have been blessed to work in direct care, behavior, recreation, and fitness,” said Eric. “I feel I can adapt very easily due to the multitude of skills I have built in my career.”

That career includes certified personal training, two community leadership awards, and the opening of Eric’s very own fitness studio. He currently serves as the Special Needs Fitness Director at the Fitness Mill in Utica.

With so much experience in both sports and services for people with intellectual disabilities, we wondered how that influenced Eric’s coaching philosophy.

“I do not look at it as coaching those with disabilities,” he explained. “The only disability is a bad attitude. These are amazing human beings, so I treat them as such. I focus on guiding youth, building character and sportsmanship, and most importantly, having fun. If we win, great. If we do not win, we find the lesson in the loss with our heads held high.”

But coaching wasn’t without the unexpected. When we asked if Eric encountered anything he didn’t anticipate, this was his answer:

“I was very surprised by how organized the programs and competitions were from top to bottom. There are so many individuals and teams, yet the experience is near flawless. I’ve worked closely with [Central Region Director of Program] Sean Coakley during my coaching career, and he’s been fantastic to work with.”

When we asked for parting thoughts, Coach Eric’s words were moving.

“Let’s continue to advocate and educate,” he said. “Let’s provide opportunities to the special needs world, not only in athletics and fitness, but in education, the workforce, and everyday life.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Thank you so much for your dedication, coach!

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