Coach Patrick Thoreson Honored by US Masters Swimming
Wins Kerry O’Brien Coaching Award
For Immediate Release: September 1, 2016
Contact: Barry Holman (202) 544-0510
Athletes Without Limits’ Swimming Program Director and Head Coach of the Atlanta-based Nautical Milers Special Needs Swim Team, Patrick Thoreson, has been awarded the prestigious United States Masters Swimming “Kerry O’Brien Coaching Award” for 2016. The award, created by the USMS Coaches’ Committee in 2008, recognizes the top US Masters swim coaches in the county.
Thoreson, aka “Coach Pat,” from Atlanta, GA, was inspired to start a competitive swim program for people with special needs when he discovered that Athletes Without Limits offered a pathway to high level international swimming for people with intellectual impairments. Starting with three swimmers in 2012, including his step son, Sean, who has Autism, Thoreson’s team quickly attracted more swimmers with intellectual impairments looking to train and compete year round. Many have gone on to represent the US at international competitions and hold dozens of Para, Georgia Masters state and US Masters Dixie Zone regional records.
Now with more than 30 swimmers from Georgia, Florida and Illinois, the Nautical Milers train 4-6 days per week and can be found competing in US Masters, USA Swimming, Para-Swimming and other disability swimming, and Open Water Events nearly every weekend. Thoreson’s is the first program in the country to focus on high level swimming for people with special needs and is a program of Athletes Without Limits.
In the award letter to Coach Pat, USMS writes, “You have not only inspired those directly associated with [The Nautical Milers] and Georgia Masters, but have influenced hundreds of others…without your vision to see what is possible, a desire to see others flourish, and your coaching expertise, your community would be void of a vibrant adult program that creates opportunities and makes differences far beyond your initial fingerprints.”
Coach Pat expressed his gratitude and coaching philosophy with the following response: “As one of our intellectual impairment sports team’s fortunate and humble coaches, it’s my job to find and give all our AWL/Nautical Milers athletes, from developmental all the way to international competitor, the appropriate challenges that each can meet. Then we guide them onto another higher step, and then the next step, and so on… and as the AWL motto states, there are No Limits!”
“Instead of sheltering any of them, we actually consciously try to get our athletes into situations where they are pushed beyond their comfort level, beyond their sense of their own limitations, and they always end up eventually rising up to the occasion and doing more than they think they can do…”
“And our differently-abled athletes have a comparable effect on me — they really inspire and challenge me to become a better coach and a better person, all the time. There’s no better feeling than being their ‘sherpa’… Every time I go to practice it’s the best part of the day!”
Barry Holman, President of Athletes Without Limits, echoed those sentiments, “Pat Thoreson is a national and international leader in breaking down barriers and opening doors for swimmers with intellectual impairments. He is relentlessly passionate, yet joyful, in his coaching and his advocacy for all US swimmers. He deftly helped us grow opportunities here and abroad and is a great case study for anyone who wants to start a high performance sports program or athletes with intellectual impairments.”
Note: Thoreson will be awarded the Kerry O’Brien Coaching Award at a ceremony at Atlanta Hyatt Regency Hotel on Saturday, September 24th.
About Athletes Without Limits:
Athletes Without Limits, a 501(c)3 non-profit, is the only US organization solely dedicated to providing high level sport opportunities to people with intellectual impairments. Our mission is to help athletes with intellectual impairments achieve their best in sport, and life.
Athletes Without Limits is the exclusive US member organization of INAS, the International Federation of Sport for Athletes with Intellectual Disability. Barry Holman serves as Inas Secretary General and many of our coaches serve on Inas international sport committees.
Founded in 2009 with just one athlete, Athletes Without Limits has grown to over 500 athletes in nine sports training and competing locally, nationally and internationally.
Athletes Without Limits coordinates and conducts the eligibility process for all US athletes to compete internationally in Para sport competitions sanctioned by US Paralympics, Inas and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
We organize and lead US teams competing in Inas world and regional championship events in more than a dozen summer and winter sports. Our athletes have traveled the globe representing the USA in the highest levels of sport while experiencing new cultures and making new and lasting friendships.
We have local sports programs for people with intellectual disability in Washington DC, Atlanta, Houston and Portland, OR. Programs will begin in the San Francisco Bay Area and Detroit in late 2016.
Athletes Without Limits helps existing mainstream programs integrate athletes with intellectual impairments into their teams and clubs and helps parents of athletes with intellectual disability access and integrate into local high performance programs.
We host international championships for athletes with intellectual disability as part of the Inas sports program. In June 2016, the tennis world championships were hosted in Sea Colony, DE with the top 25 players from around the world competing. In 2017, Athletes Without Limits will begin hosting national championships for athletes with intellectual impairments with separate competition categories for Down Syndrome, Intellectual Disability, and Autism.
Athletes Without Limits advocates for the rights and expanded opportunities for athletes with intellectual impairments locally, nationally and internationally.