George Coffey has retired from the Whitman Area Special Olympics.
George Coffey has decided it’s time.
After 27 years as either a Special Olympics volunteer, coach or coordinator — including the last four as the Whitman Area Special Olympics coordinator — Coffey has retired.
“Unfortunately, my health and age are working against me,” said the 72-year-old Coffey. “For the last few years, my health has deteriorated, and I can’t do the things as I used to. There have been too many times I’ve been in the hospital and worrying about the teams and if I would be there for them. I don’t think it would be fair to miss a tournament or practices and have the coaches scrambling to get things done.”
Coffey’s son, Jimmy, who was adopted when he was a year old, was the reason he got involved in the Special Olympics.
“We were told that he had issues and would probably be a special needs child in school,” Coffey said. “When he was about 7, he asked me about trying out for Mr. [John] Odom’s track team.
“Mr. John Odom is a legend in the special education family of the WHRSD (Whitman-Hanson School District) and the Whitman Area Special Olympics. I was a Special Olympics advocate from that time on.”
Ironically enough, Jimmy, now 37, has assumed a lot of his dad’s old responsibilities.
“My son has taken over for me,” Coffey said. “In addition to playing flag football, floor hockey and softball, he has been coach in TOPS, Whitman [Area] Special Olympics and East Bridgewater Youth Soccer. He is an example of what my athletes can do when given the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own.”
Coffey said he’ll miss the athletes the most as he enters retirement.
“I love them as if they were my own kid,” he said.
And while Coffey may be on the sidelines now, he said he isn’t going too far.
“I will help the coordinators and coaches any way I can,” he said. “I go to the practices because Jimmy is playing or coaching, and I love to butt in when I can help an athlete. I will stay active with the fundraising.
“I am currently trying to get SOMA (Special Olympics Massachusetts) to start a coaches college to train Special Olympic athletes to go into coaching when their playing retirement time comes. There’s a lot of talented athletes that can pass on what they have learned.”