Celebrating a Boy and His Swim Coaches

A Special Issue for National Autism Awareness Month

We want to thank UVAC and its coaches for an amazing winter season and for all of the support Ollie has received throughout the years while swimming for UVAC. 

Swimming is tough. It is a constant chore, where swimmers get used to putting in hours and hours of hard work, in hopes that at the end of the season when they race their best events, they will shave off a few milliseconds. Maybe even a full second or two.

But greatness is rarely achieved without that extra help every once and a while. When Ollie is in the pool during a UVAC practice or at the Colby Sawyer pool getting in extra swim time, he has his older teammates to encourage him and coach Signe to motivate him. But it is easy to take for granted (or not even realize) how much of an amazing support system the entire coaching staff at UVAC has been for Ollie.

Coach Signe’s mindset is not limited to swimming, either. She wants the kids to succeed in life. She cares about how the kids grow as people, not just as athletes. We hear her during practice sessions. She teaches them how to carry the values of swimming into the real world; hard work but makes it fun, leadership, determination, enthusiasm.

Ollie started swimming at UVAC in the winter of 2017 when he was seven, and joined the swim team about a year later switching training pools between Colby Sawyer and White River depending on convenience and ease of transportation.

We first noticed his ability to swim and fondness for water when he was 6 months old. He would push off from the wall and do a complete circle using doggie paddle. This soon built up to swimming across the width, then eventually the length of the pool in a few weeks. He showed no fear and would repeat this as long as we would let him. He always looked forward to going to the pool and would spend countless hours swimming, wading, and splashing. This is the place where he would smile, laugh, play and even interact. Which was a challenge for Ollie.

Ollie was diagnosed with Autism at around 18-months. As parents all we want for Ollie is to be happy, confident, and accomplished in whatever he chooses to do. We know it will be harder for him to find a voice in this world because of his challenges. Until then we will speak for him and make sure his needs are met and that he is pushed hard to achieve his goals. His fight is our fight. His voice is our voice. Until such time he can advocate for himself.

April was National Autism Awareness month and this means something different to everyone. To us it is not about celebrating the fact that you have a child with autism. To our family it means embracing the amazing, celebrating the small wins and understanding the struggles. And most of all thanking those who have made a huge impact in Ollie’s growth. THANK YOU UVAC Coaches! 

He is healthy, active, and hard working. Although Ollie struggles with communication and understanding social cues, he loves being around his swim team friends and his coaches. He is a very kind and thoughtful kid, sensitive and very caring about his self-care and others. If you see him in the crowd, he is the quiet, smiling one in the back. If you meet him up close, he is the smiling quiet one in front of you.

Ollie is a visual learner and learns best when people “show” him what to do. He also benefits from repetitive instruction. This where the UVAC coaches have been so incredibly amazing throughout the years. Especially Coach Signe and Coach Erin who have dedicated time and effort in every practice to help Ollie continue to improve his competitive swimming.

Because of Coach Signe’s guidance and encouragement, Ollie looks forward to team practices and enjoys the competition. Although Ollie has participated in many swim meets, thanks to Coach Signe, Ollie has started to compete in them. He had a great swim season and will once again run track with the Upper Valley Hawks Special Olympics Track Team this spring. 

Signe teaches the kids to work together as a team and how to compete fairly and respectfully, cheer for each other and above all have fun. For Ollie, Coach Signed goes the extra mile, she makes sure he can see her, hear her and pairs him up with older swimmers during the swim season and off season, so that Ollie can continue to improve motor skills and work on his strokes.

Thank you UVAC!

Annette and Drew

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