My name is Greg Green, and I am the father of Natalie Green, a Global Ambassador, Youth Leader and athlete on the RSL Unified alumni soccer team, who now plays for the Sovereign, a Special Olympics Unified soccer team.
I’ve had the opportunity to coach soccer since 2010. My daughter Natalie has IDD, epilepsy and cerebral palsy, with a mild paralysis on her left side. I have always sought programs that promote a more active lifestyle for players with a physical or mental disability, particularly after Natalie had a brain surgery (pediatric left hemispherotomy) in 2011. Prior to the surgery, Natalie had multiple seizures daily and could have a seizure on the field in the middle of a game.
When I started with Special Olympics we were looking for competitive programs that Natalie could participate in, that gave some accommodation to her abilities. There was a lack of competitive programs for athletes with intellectual disability. We were already involved in programs that were focused on player development but had not found competitive programs.
Natalie’s first event with Special Olympics Utah was in August 2012, when she participated in the Riders Cup cycling competition in Park City. Since then she has competed in Unified Soccer, run in the Unified Torch Relay, joined the RSL Unified soccer team, attended the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games as a Youth Leader, and speaks as a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics. She is preparing to attend the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi as a correspondent.
Since joining Special Olympics, Natalie has found multiple opportunities to grow:
- Participation in competitive team sports, practices and events
- Adopted the motto of Special Olympics: Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt that emphasizes personal effort and desire to compete with mutual dignity and respect
- Participates in charitable events that allow her to represent Special Olympics as an ambassador and athlete
- Speak to audiences as a Global Ambassador on the impact of diversity and inclusion programs, and growing real participation in movements that grow inclusion
- Grow leadership by working with partners and programs to build the Unified movement. Natalie is in her second year as a Diversity Officer in her Student Body organization at high school.
I’m proud to be a part of a great organization that emphasizes player development and community participation which also fosters good sportsmanship, dignity and respect. Special Olympics matters because its outreach offers competitive play that engages people together and grows understanding, acceptance, and mutual respect. It makes inclusion a reality for Natalie, and gives others the opportunity to see what I see: a capable young lady who can lead and inspire through her engagement and always positive spirit.
The Unified Sports movement is improving the way that young adults are thinking and engaging with each other. It creates real relationships around common goals of competition, fair play, respect and engagement; and it gives students the opportunity to become leaders who practice diversity and inclusiveness.