“The Greatest Honor in My Officiating Career”

When Ellen Pikula got the news, she had to tell someone. So she emailed her supervisor with the following message:

“This selection is by far the greatest honor in my officiating career.”

What was she so excited about? She’s been selected to officiate softball at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida!

Ellen has been a vital member of Special Olympics New York for more than 20 years. She currently works as Director of Program in the Hudson Valley Region, but her involvement is so much deeper. A brief list of Ellen’s accolades:

Ellen officiating a softball competition.

  • Track & Field coach at World Games 1995
  • Head of Delegation at USA Games 2010
  • Softball coach at the pre-2014 USA Unified Softball Invitational
  • Head track & field coach at USA Games 2014
  • Powerlifting coach at USA Games 2016

In addition to all that, Ellen has officiated volleyball for nine years, track & field for five, and football for two. Some of these sports have been though Special Olympics, though she’s officated for high schools, NCAA, and USA Softball. Though she values all her experience, Ellen recognizes that officiating Special Olympics is different.

“Special Olympics athletes are far less reserved,” she observes. “From my perspective, they seemingly enjoy the game a great deal more. Granted, in a close game, it can get heated. However, there is an overarching feel of fun that just envelops the entirety of it. It’s amazing!”

Ellen came to Special Olympics New York in 1992, making her one of the organization’s longest-tenured employees. After earning coaching certification in several sports through an agency in Somors, NY, she was invited to apply to a local position within the organization. She’d been with Special Olympics NY ever since.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to lend my services to an outstanding organization that serves the most gracious group of individuals I have come to know,” she said.

When asked what tips she has for USA Games athletes, Ellen was a bit less effusive.

“Well, as an official…I would have nothing major to offer in that department,” she said. “Just listen to what your coaches are teaching you and have a good time doing it!”

And after so many years, how does Ellen keep at it? Easy.

“It’s about appreciation, respect, dedication, and pure, unadulterated joy,” she said. “That’s what I get to see and feel every time I walk onto a field with Special Olympics athletes.”