Ray Hadden - Special Olympics Connecticut Athlete Coach and Health Leader

Ray Hadden

Being a successful leader and mentor is important to me. When I was asked to become part of the Connecticut Special Olympics health team, I thought, what great opportunity this would be! At the time I had been thinking a lot about my own health and what I could do to improve it. Why was this important? There is a strong history of heart disease in my family, and at age 24 I myself had a stroke.

By becoming a health messenger, I would be able to get lessons on how to live a healthier lifestyle through the Healthy Athlete and Fit 5 programs. Learning what small steps to take every day that would make a difference and improve how you feel both mentally and physically. Not only would this be a great benefit to me, I could then educate others on how living a healthy life style is important. That when you live a healthier life style you will feel better, stronger and have better stamina when participating in sports.

So that’s what I did, I joined the health team! As a Health Messenger and coach, I wanted to share what I had learned about the Fit 5 program with my local bowling team by challenging them to complete the first phase of the Fit 5 program. I knew it would be a challenge at the bowling allies as we have 30 bowlers and we would be doing the weekly lesson on the lanes. So, in the fall of 2018 we started the first phase of the Fit 5 program. I explained to everyone that we would take the first 10 – 15 minutes of each practice and work on a lesson and add a couple of warm up exercises before we started bowling. Showing them that by making a few small changes in what you do makes a difference, the healthier you are the more strength and energy you will have, in return making you feel better about yourself. I also told them they were not alone, that I was going to be doing the program along with them. The team agreed it was a great idea, even the parents and care givers were on board.

In the beginning I asked them to take the per lifestyle survey to take. Over the next 8 weeks I would do a lesson, reminding everyone every week to about the 555 rule of 5 bottles of water, 5 fruit and vegetables, 5 days of exercise for 30 minutes. I gave them a weekly chart for them to record their progress, which they showed us every week, well most of them. Each weekly lesson I would talk about small changes they can make in their eating & exercise habits. Everyone was given a My Plate to help them see what a balanced plate would look like. We talked about the importance of eliminating sugary drinks and replacing it with water or seltzer by showing them how much sugar they get in different drinks, to replace an unhealthy snack by adding a fruit or vegetable sticks, replace a starch with a fruit or vegetable to your meal and getting as many steps in as you can every day. Then they were asked the to do another survey, At the end of the program everyone expressed how much they enjoyed the Fit 5 lessons and what they had learned. That made me feel really good. I asked them if they wanted to continue with some Health lessons next season, their response was definitely!

When bowling practices began this past fall we started the second phase of the Fit 5 program. These lesson expanded on what we learned the year before and most importantly show us potion control. We had another successful year, and I am looking forward to continuing another phase of the Fit 5 program with our bowlers. Also, working with my local coordinator I am hoping to be able to bring health lessons to all our practices.

It is very rewarding to be able to bring others the importance of changing unhealthy habits one step at a time. I know it is not always easy, I struggle to stay on track myself, but in the end I feel both mentally and physically better, resulting in a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Charity Name
Special Olympics Connecticut
Photo Caption
Special Olympics Athlete, Coach and Global Messenger Participating in a Special Olympics Connecticut Athlete Leadership Training Day.
Photo Credit
Special Olympics Connecticut