Amateur Sports: Decades of Dedication for Dave McCarty

Dave McCarty of the Philadelphia chapter of the Special Olympics

Trying something new on impulse led Dave McCarty (above) to one of his biggest passions: coaching children and adults with intellectual disabilities for the Special Olympics. That was nearly three decades ago. Today, McCarty continues to devote his free time to these athletes–helping them achieve their full potential, both physically and mentally.

How and when did you get involved with the Special Olympics?

I’m going into my 29th year as a coach. I got involved just on a whim. I really just came out and was hooked since then. I’ve done just about all sports but mainly soccer.

What has been your most memorable moment with the Special Olympics?

I think my most memorable moment was in my 20th year when we went to the Pennsylvania Games and I was actually thinking about retiring. [The team] went to the Games and they won a gold medal for me. So, I then changed my mind.

How do these athletes impact you each time you step onto the field with them?

They’re all love. It’s the innocence of them … and the competition of them. Some of them are so competitive. Special Olympics is not just a sporting event. It’s mostly social. This is where the core group gets together every week and socializes. Each one of them has a boyfriend or girlfriend. They’re dating this one and they used to date that one. You know how it is. It’s just like going to college. It’s very social and gives them something to do. It allows the parents to get out and socialize and it allows [the athletes] to get active. Down Syndrome athletes tend to gain a little weight, so we like them to be out, get active and move around. But it’s basically both social and physical activity.

McCarty chats with his two assistant coaches before the second half gets underway.
McCarty chats with his two assistant coaches before the second half gets underway.

Can you talk about winning the Edwina Grosvenor Award in 2008?

I’m not with [Grosvenor Investment Management Inc.] anymore, actually. But, I won that award for putting in hours. A co-worker submitted it in my name and they actually gave the Special Olympics $5,000 as a donation in my name for doing services over the years. I think at that point, I was probably doing it for 25 years. I got a letter from Edwina Grosvenor [Princess Diana’s goddaughter] herself. She is very big in London and [her younger brother] Hugh is actually one of Prince George’s godfathers. Getting a letter from her was very special.

You coach soccer from August to November. Do you spend time doing more volunteer work in the other months? 

I volunteer at Immaculate Mary Nursing Home. My mother was there. Next week, it’ll be six years since she passed. If I’m not here on Saturday mornings, I go and volunteer my time there.

What are your hopes for the future of the Special Olympics program, both locally and worldwide?

McCarty observes as a corner kick is taken.
McCarty observes as a corner kick is taken.

I actually hope this program will grow. The problem with the Special Olympics is that you get so many different [skill] levels. It’s hard to put all the athletes on a team. Some athletes need their hands held to show them where to go and other ones can get the ball around me. It’s difficult as a coach to tell somebody, especially a special somebody, that they can’t go away [to the various tournaments] but I need more athletes to come out. Years ago, I had five teams and it has since shrunk. But more people need to be aware of [the program] and need to come out to build this program back up again.

– Text and images by Anthony Bellino and Ashley Dougherty.

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