As a parent, coach and softball player himself, Rich Jordine has always been involved in his son Michael’s growth through sport. When Michael was young, Rich coached basketball and soccer through the local YMCA. When Rich didn’t necessarily have the time to coach in Michael’s teenage years, he remained involved at practices and fundraised for his son’s teams. He was an assistant coach for a Unified® softball team when a group of athletes approached him to coach a traditional softball team. He couldn’t refuse and became the head coach of the Mercer Rebels. Faced with some unknowns as a new head coach, he committed to learning as much as he could as fast as he could, attending coach training, meetings and asking questions. Through those efforts, Rich gained valuable information for the season, from the basics of coaching a Special Olympics team to practice planning to fine-tuning skill techniques.
The Mercer Rebels, along with all of the softball teams throughout the state, faced an unpredictable opponent this year: the weather. Much of the competition season was cancelled, but Rich wanted to make sure the season was still positive and engaging. He contacted all of the softball teams in the state in the hopes of coordinating an alternate scrimmage league on the weekdays to give athletes more practice playing competitively prior to Summer Games. He organized a Facebook group for the softball coaches to coordinate and athletes to post questions or comments. His efforts to think outside the box are a marker of a persevering coach.
In addition to working around the forecast, Rich’s team consisted of athletes who worked, many full time. So, with his training and competition quantity cut down, Rich focused on quality by going back-to-basics with skill development. He was able to utilize his full practice time to include proper warm ups and stretching, performance analysis through group skill sessions and play scenarios. He also always made sure to reinforce what was learned during practice. Moving from essential skill development in throwing, catching and batting to skill development more tailored to each athlete’s position allowed each team member to become more well-rounded players.
Given the challenges of this season, Rich was incredibly proud of his team that grew together as a diverse group of young men both on and off the playing field. “If you listen at the beginning of our games, the chant they use to motivate each other is ‘FAMILY!’ because that’s what they are,” Rich says. The chemistry of his team certainly reflects the coaching philosophy that Rich worked to impress upon his
team. The four key areas of this philosophy are:
- Have fun! We play because it’s fun. We want to be competitive and we want to win, but ultimately we want to have fun.
- Everybody plays. There are no superstars on the Rebels, and everyone has value in one or more positions. Everyone plays every game.
- Respect everyone. Officials, coaches, teammates and opponents. Be respectful and good sportsmen.
- Always give 100%. You can always hold your head up, win or lost, if you’ve played your best.
For his investment in being the best coach he can be, innovation and positivity in training approach and his standout coaching philosophy, Special Olympics New Jersey is proud to name Rich Jordine as the 2017 Summer Coach of the Season.