While working out at his local gym over the summer of 2013, Jarrod Klayman met a Special Olympics New Jersey volunteer. The conversation they had about volunteer opportunities with the organization changed his life. Immediately, Jarrod registered to volunteer as a Unified® partner for the Unified Recreation program at the SONJ Sports Complex. Even before the program ended, Jarrod found himself seeking more opportunities to get involved. Around that time is when he met Ari.

Ari Schulman is 16-year-old young man who had been frequenting the SONJ Fitness Center with his mom to exercise. He was quiet but always completed his workouts diligently. Even with the consistent exercise schedule, it was clear that Ari could be motivated to achieve more in fitness, not to mention confidence. So, Ari and his family requested a coach to start training Ari for powerlifting. Jarrod was happy to receive the recruitment call to meet Ari and consider coaching. By fall, Ari and Jarrod were lifting together at the SONJ Fitness Center on a weekly basis. Jarrod worked with veteran SONJ powerlifting coach Rob Tanke to learn the ropes of training, and as Ari’s strength, technique, focus and confidence grew, so did the bond between athlete and coach.

Through winter and spring, the pair continued to train, and in April, they were ready to take on the competition at the summer season Sectionals. They were both rookies to the powerlifting world, but their team, creatively named “Schulman Power,” was ready for their debut. Leading up to the competition, Jarrod was a little nervous. Ari, on the other hand, showed no signs of worry as he sat patiently for his named to be called with a grin of anticipation and excitement. With his trusted coach, Jarrod, and the community of coaches and athletes supporting him, Ari won first place in his division for the squat and dead lift at Sectionals. The thrill of competition continued the next month at Summer Games, where Ari took silver in squat and gold in dead lift.

The experience in their first season together was more memorable than Jarrod could have imagined. “Schulman Power” operated as a true team, learning and growing in their abilities as coach and athlete together. “I thought that Ari’s disabilities would be challenging, and at times we had a few hurdles that we had to jump over, but we pushed and pushed,” said Jarrod. “We did more than we thought was possible because we both tried, gave 100% and had fun.” Even with a background in weightlifting, Jarrod learned all he could about powerlifting and coaching. He made great strides to absorb all he could about the sport and its rules, reading coaching guides and all of the competition requirements.

For the sake of Ari’s success, Jarrod made sure he could be the best coach possible. “Seeing such a beautiful-hearted young man, who never powerlifted a day in his life, do such incredible things all with a smile was my reward,” said Jarrod. Through their shared journey, Ari became Jarrod’s friend, athlete, and protégé, and the happiness he saw in Ari became a point of pride for Jarrod. Again this fall, “Schulman Power” will hit the gym for training, ready to reach even greater heights together.

Because of his dedication, perseverance, passion and desire to be the best possible coach he can be, Special Olympics New Jersey is proud to have Jarrod Klayman as the 2014 Summer Sports Coach of the Season.

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