Meet Jeff Coon, Special Olympics Colorado FunFitness Clinical Director
My name is Jeffrey Coon and I have been a Special Olympics Colorado FunFitness Clinical Director since 2019. I have been a physical therapist since 1999 and first became familiar with the FunFitness screenings through my daughter Gretchen, an athlete that has competed in several Special Olympics swimming events over the years.
FunFitness screenings are typically provided at regional and state games where large groups of athletes will be attending. During these screenings, physical therapists (PT), physical therapist assistants (PTA), PT students and PTA students work together to screen athletes in areas such as strength, flexibility, balance and cardiovascular conditioning. All athletes are provided with a home program to address any deficits that are identified and those that meet certain criteria are referred for further assessment by a physician. FunFitness screenings are designed to catch any physical deficits that may not have been previously addressed so that an athlete may receive the healthcare they deserve.
I was given the opportunity to train as a FunFitness Clinical Director in November of 2019. I had found my experiences volunteering at FunFitness screenings to be extremely rewarding, so I jumped at the chance to become more involved in providing physical therapy screening to athletes.
Through this training I was exposed to all of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiatives and learned of the disparities in access to quality healthcare for those with intellectual disabilities. Our family is fortunate to have adequate health insurance and access to quality health care for our daughter with Down syndrome. Being involved with the Special Olympics Colorado Healthy Athletes programming is one way that I can help increase access to quality healthcare to those athletes with intellectual disabilities that may not have the same resources that are available to my family.
In my current position as Program Director at a physical therapist assistant program, I am constantly encouraging my students to volunteer their skills in a variety of ways in the community. Several have volunteered at FunFitness events with me over the past few years and all have raved about the experience afterward. Volunteering at these events gives students an opportunity to practice their newly learned skills and provides them with invaluable experience in working with individuals with intellectual disabilities. A few graduates from my program have gone on to positions in pediatric physical therapy and credit their volunteer experience with Special Olympics in helping them decide on this career path. I have also incorporated working with patients with intellectual disabilities into our curriculum so that all students will be exposed to the concept of Inclusive Health.
Being the father of a Special Olympics athlete, a physical therapist and a physical therapy educator provides me with a unique perspective on the important work that Special Olympics Colorado is doing to improve access to healthcare for those with intellectual disabilities. I would encourage all healthcare providers and students pursuing a career in healthcare to take advantage of the opportunities to volunteer with Special Olympics Healthy Athletes. I can think of no other experience in my career that has been more personally rewarding.