Steven Simning was an athlete in the Special Olympics for the first time when he was in his mid-teens.
Now 30, Simning is moving on to the next level — he’ll soon be one of the first Minnesota Special Olympians to take part as both a athlete and coach.
“I started in seventh grade, and wanted to do coaching because it’s easier for me to help other people,” he said this week.
Simning already has experience helping with warm ups and refereeing for Special Olympics volleyball games when he’s not out on the floor playing.
This year, Simning was one of 25 in the state chosen for the “Athletes to Coaches” program.
“When ‘Athletes to Coaches’ opened up, it was a great opportunity for Steven to coach for Redwood Falls,” said Dan Seehusen, Simning’s mentor and coach.
Simning is moving up in the Special Olympics organization in other ways, too.
In November he went through training to become a recruiter for both new athletes and coaches as part of the Global Messenger program.
“Steven is the first one from southwest Minnesota to become a Global Messenger,” said Seehusen. “Steven spent a week at Camp Friendship developing a speech to give to groups. He typed half of it himself.”
Simning could have chosen from a variety of ways to help the organization behind the scenes, but “he chose recruiting because Redwood is kind of hurting in that way,” said Seehusen.
With powerlifting and basketball, Redwood Falls area Special Olympics now offers seven sports out of the 18 the national organization offers.
Simning hopes with his recruiting speech, he can encourage enough other potential athletes and coaches to add a few more sports to the mix.
Simning gave his recruiting speech to the public for the first time on Jan. 7. He had a friendly audience — many of the same athletes and coaches he’s played with for years.
Was he nervous?
“No, not nervous,” he laughed afterwards. “After it, people said, ‘Good job’.”
“He made really good eye contact,” said Seehusen. “Steven was president of People First, so he’s given lots of speeches before.”
The toughest part of being a Global Messenger for Simning will be finding the time to actually do it.
Simning, who currently lives in a REM group home, has several part-time jobs through Service Enterprises, Inc., and volunteers at the animal shelter in the afternoons.