There is no doubt that sport at any level can have a major impact on a person’s development. This can be even more so the case when it comes to people with special needs. Helping to have an influential impact on the lives of these people is Jack Hanratty. Jack is in his 3rd year working in Allianz Ireland as a Data Analyst, whilst also lending his time coaching athletics and volunteering as a mentor in the Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs).
Jack has been a coach at the Special Olympics South Dublin Sports Campus in Cheeverstown and Terenure since 2011. Volunteering first at a Special Olympics collection day and meeting others that were involved, he became interested in participating more and has been coaching ever since. His role as a coach means a lot to him and he looks forward to helping the athletes in every aspect each week. “It’s a great feeling when you see athletes you’re working with improving over time. I get a great sense of pride from it!” Not only does Jack see the great benefit that athletics can have, he also takes great joy in seeing the athletes building on other important life elements. “It means a lot to me to see the athletes improving in their skills we are coaching them, whether it’s their fitness levels or public speaking abilities.”
Importance for the Athletes
Currently, almost 8,000 athletes take part in year round training in a network of 313 community-based clubs. For the athletes, the importance and value that they get from these programs and the volunteering of time and effort by people like Jack all contributes towards their overall development. “Through the ALPs program, we help the athletes work on important life skills including communication, writing, public speaking, and team working”. This goes to show the benefits of these programs go far beyond the physical. Jack has seen each athlete that he works with “develop significantly” in confidence over the years. He also talks about the atmosphere at each session, the fun and the friendships: “It’s impossible not to enjoy yourself spending time around the athletes.” The athletes aren’t the only ones to benefit. Jack finds the impact on himself just as positive. “When you’re working with so many people who are so happy and full of life that it becomes contagious. Most, if not all, coaches you talk to will leave every session in a better mood. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood around such joyful people.”
How Can We Promote and Place Value on Special Olympics?
The Special Olympics gives thousands of athletes with a variety of learning disabilities the chance to be active and grow in confidence; there’s no doubt that coaches and mentors such as Jack play their part in this. It can be seen that up until recently, athletes who take part in the Special Olympics are gaining recognition from far and wide, which Jack believes must continue to happen. “As a nation, I think we are extremely good at sharing the successes and the impact that the Special Olympics has. This was clear by the sheer amount of media coverage that it received during the world games this year.” The ongoing media attention that surrounds the Special Olympics helps to highlight the important work that is being done by both athletes and mentors alike, enabling them to achieve and win not only in sport, but in life as well.
The Special Olympics Oath says, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Special Olympics gives children and adults with intellectual disabilities the chance to demonstrate the courage that brings along life-changing experience, whether they win or lose. Jacks commitment to coaching is a great example of how we all can influence and change peoples lives for the better in some way, no matter how big or how small. The impact that participation in Special Olympics can have on the athletes is immeasurable, all facilitated by dedicated volunteers like Jack.
Many choices we make in life can require a degree of courage, no matter how big or small. This is how great things happen, and at Allianz, we are proud to support people who have the courage to go forward in life.
Learn more about Careers at Allianz.