Merced County's Special Olympians Get Boost from UC Merced Staffer

Growing up in nearby Gustine, UC Merced payroll assistant Carla Krogh had friends with a disabled son. Professionals assisting him felt it would help his coordination if he could experience the repeated right-left motion of crawling, a developmental stage he had missed. Taking turns with other members of the community, Krogh went with her mother and sister to practice patterning with the boy - helping him make the motions of crawling.

That experience helps her now as she coaches basketball, track and sometimes golf for Special Olympians in Merced County. Throwing, catching and dribbling don't usually come naturally to our athletes, she says. We teach them every detail how to step, move their arm and let go to throw a softball, for example.

Technique isn't the only challenge. Local homes for special-needs individuals often lack staffing and transportation to get athletes to Special Olympics practices and events. Krogh says that if she could overcome any obstacle for the program, she would choose that one.

But coaching also means cheering athletes on in competition. Krogh's favorite part. One athlete, Frank, hardly ever speaks, she says. But in competition, sometimes he gets excited enough to utter a word or two. That's the greatest reward.

Once she gets started talking about the joys of Special Olympics, Krogh can hardly stop. One young man, chosen in a random drawing as all competitors are for trips to higher-level competitions, made it all the way to Ireland for bowling. Another athlete would run only if coaches promised him french fries. Krogh found another motivator: a game of Frisbee after practice. He is a much better Frisbee player than I am, Krogh laughs. He really enjoyed showing me up. When Krogh presented him with a UC Merced flying disc, his happiness overflowed.

Krogh knows her work is making a difference. One day when she called out a reminder for a sometimes-aggressive athlete to be a sportsmanlike competitor, she got additional proof. Don't worry, Carla, he responded. I'll hear your voice in my head telling me to behave.

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