Special Olympics New York Gymnastics Program Continues to Fly to Great Heights

By Maddie Csont, Special Olympics New York Gymnast

Meet Special Olympics New York gymnastics coach Marlene Michels. She started small, but after almost 30 years of coaching for our organization, her team is now 18 athletes strong.

I sat down with Coach Marlene to find out why she coaches and what continues to motivate her.

1. Why did you become a Special Olympics New York coach?

My cousin has autism and didn’t go to a typical school. I became aware that children with disabilities don’t often get to participate in sports the way other children might. With my love for gymnastics, I decided to start a dance and gymnastics team with Special Olympics New York. It’s so amazing to see athletes participate in the sport I love so much.

2. What was your favorite Special Olympics meet and why?

My all time favorite Special Olympics NY gymnastics meet was when my team earned a spot to represent Team New York at the 2018 USA Games in Seattle, Washington. It was the thrill of a lifetime to see my athletes compete at the highest level in the nation. And, of course, it was great to coach you, Maddie, during that meet and see you bring home a gold medal!

3. Why should others consider becoming a Special Olympics NY Coach?

It’s an amazing experience working with people with differing abilities. They teach me as much as I teach them. These athletes are competitive, they train hard, and they want to succeed. I encourage others to coach too because they can be the reason someone’s dreams come true.

4. What has been your favorite moment in your coaching career?

There have been so many wonderful moments, but I was so grateful to have been named a Game Changer at the Special Olympics NY Night of Champions event in Saratoga last year. It was such a surprise, but a night I’ll never forget. And all for doing something that I love to do.

Coach Marlene’s motto is everyone deserves the chance to play and be on a team. These athletes do amazing things. It just takes time and patience.


Meet your mission. Become a coach like Marlene today!