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'It's like a drug': Dad discovers joy of coaching Special Olympians

Larry Robbins has cheered for his son from the stands. At the Special Olympics national championships this week, he'll be cheering from the ice. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
Larry Robbins has cheered for his son from the stands. At the Special Olympics national championships this week, he'll be cheering from the ice. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

Larry Robbins says he's usually the "loudest one in the arena" when cheering for Team P.E.I.'s Special Olympians.

When the speed-skating team came looking for a volunteer coach, he leapt from his seat again. Now, he says, there is no going back.

"It's like a drug that just gets into your system," he said.

"The athletes always give you such great enjoyment. They're always in great humour. You wouldn't know whether they win, lose or came last. They're still the same, cheerful, and they are just a joy to coach."

Robbins, of St. Peters Harbour, will be coaching his son, Logan, and Jordan Koughan on P.E.I.'s speed-skating team. They are part of a contingent of 33 athletes and 21 coaches and staff that will participate in seven sports at the Special Olympics national championships next week in Calgary.

Team P.E.I. will be competing at the Special Olympics national championships Feb. 27 to March 2 in Calgary.
Team P.E.I. will be competing at the Special Olympics national championships Feb. 27 to March 2 in Calgary.

Team P.E.I. will be competing at the Special Olympics national championships Feb. 27 to March 2 in Calgary. (Special Olympics P.E.I.)

Robbins has been to a national championship before as a parent, when Logan won a gold medal in Thunder Bay, Ont.

"Everybody knows I'm the loudest one in the arena no matter who it is racing. But, yeah, when he got his gold medal, it was something that we didn't know would happen."

Now, he'll bring that enthusiasm to coaching.

You give them positive feedback, you cheer them on and the camaraderie among them is just amazing. — Larry Robbins

"Coaching in the Special Olympics is … you give them positive feedback, you cheer them on, and the camaraderie among them is just amazing when you have the Special Olympics athletes competing against each other."

Logan, 20, has been practising a few times a week to get in condition for the 1,000-metre event, a longer race than he's used to.

"He's the best coach that I could ever ask for and he also gives me motivation," Logan said of his father. "He tells me to go hard."

Logan Robbins
Logan Robbins

Logan Robbins says his father gives him motivation when he is speed skating. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

The competition begins Tuesday and runs until Saturday. Some of the action will be livestreamed on the Special Olympics P.E.I. website.

Logan said he's looking forward to the competition.

"It means, for me, a whole lot because it gives me a chance to prove myself and show people that just because we have a disability doesn't mean that we can't do stuff that they do."