More Than Sports: Special Olympics New York Taught Me To Lead

By Maddie Csont, USA Games 2022 Gold Medal Gymnast & Statewide Athlete Leadership Council Graduate

My experience on the Special Olympics New York Statewide Athlete Leadership Council was life-changing.

I’ve been involved with Special Olympics as a gymnast for 10 years, and had wonderful experiences, but my time on the Athlete Leadership Council was extra special. I got to meet athletes from all over the state, to work on a team with other local athletes to raise money and awareness, and to build new relationships with my peers.

I learned so much as an athlete leader. We learned how to deal with our emotions in constructive ways, and to handle stress and nerves both in and out of competitive situations. We supported each other, as well as other athletes, during competitions and even at nationals. We learned how to lead by example by maintaining a positive attitude and demonstrating good sportsmanship.

It was an honor and privilege to represent the athletes of NYS at the national level, and to represent our region at the state level.

My advice for future athlete leaders would be to ask for answers to questions you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or support. We are stronger together, so it’s important to rely on each other. Never stop trying for your personal best, and never give up. Be present for your teammates. And always have fun!


Maddie Csont, of Fairport, NY, has been a gymnast since she was 3 years old and a Special Olympics New York athlete since age 18.

The Athlete Leadership Program encourages athletes to take on new challenges and explore new ways to pay forward their experience with Special Olympics New York while providing them with the tools and training to succeed. Learn more here.