Editor’s Note: Marty Touchette of Warren County Special Olympics was the second-place winner in Special Olympics Illinois’ Share Your Story Contest.
While Marty Touchette has only been a Special Olympics coach for a little over a year, that short amount of time has been “everything and more” for Touchette.
Touchette’s inspiration to become a coach came from running children’s homes for a social service agency in Monmouth. He loved his job taking care of the children and having fun with them, but was laid off. When he saw the opening for a coaching position at Warren County Special Olympics, he jumped at the opportunity.
“Special Olympics was right up the same path, and I thought it would be something that I would enjoy and maybe help some people and have fun. So, I took a shot at it and I really enjoyed it,” said Touchette.
Since then Touchette has been involved in coaching many of the sports Special Olympics has to offer, including volleyball, basketball, snowshoeing, athletics, softball, bocce and bowling. His favorite? Softball. He has coached it for many years and his Warren County team recently won a state title for it.
However, the championship title wasn’t an ordinary win for Touchette. When Touchette began coaching Special Olympics, he met a young man who he became very close with. Schuyler Farris is an athlete on four of Touchette’s teams, one of them being softball. Read Touchette’s story about Schuyler here.
Not long before the softball season started, Schuyler was in an accident that left him enduring six painful attempts to relocate his right and dominant arm, and eventually leaving him no choice but to undergo surgery to repair it.
Of all the trials and tribulations to be concerned about at this time, Schuyler was most troubled by the fact that he would not be able to be on the field with the rest of his team. So, he mustered all of the competitive edge he uses on game days and focused it on physical therapy to get healthy and recover faster.
Touchette said that Schuyler’s motivation to get back in the game came from the desire to be a part of the team and be with his friends. “We are an interconnected group that cares deeply for one another.”
Special Olympics has given Schuyler the opportunity to make more friends and “it’s easier to talk to people,” Schuyler said. He enjoys “sweating and playing hard” in whichever sport he’s involved in.
Even though he could not play on the softball team for a while, Schuyler was made an honorary coach, complete with his own clipboard. Touchette, who Schuyler calls “Captain,” said that Schuyler “just ate it up” and loved his experience as an assistant coach. However, this opportunity still did not compare to the feeling Schuyler got when he would step out onto the field.
“Before you know it, he was back around his friends and chomping at the bit to get as active as he could be,” said Touchette about Schuyler’s speedy recovery.
Touchette is not the only coach that has had a positive influence on Schuyler’s life. His grandmother, Deb Farris, has been a Special Olympics coach for three years, and coaches Schuyler in snowshoeing and helps Touchette coach him in softball and volleyball.
When asked about her grandson’s recovery, Mrs. Farris said that she never imagined he would play ball again so soon. However, she was not surprised when Schuyler told her he wanted to recover as soon as he could. What did take the coaches, team and fans by surprise was how the season ended.
Schuyler’s softball team had qualified for a chance to compete for the gold medal at the 2013 Outdoor Sports Festival. With two outs in the final inning of the game, Schuyler was hit a hard line drive while playing his shortstop position. Without hesitation he confidently caught the ball, clinching the last out and state title, followed by a round of applause by the crowd and cheers from his teammates and coaches.
Schuyler says that moment was his favorite in all his time with Special Olympics. “Winning state in softball after I got hurt” was the best, he said. “My black glove came in really handy.”
“I don’t think you could find anybody any prouder than I was,” said Mrs. Farris.
Even though it was the state championship winning catch, and the comeback of a lifetime, Schuyler was as modest as ever. Mrs. Farris said this is not unusual for her grandson. In fact, if she even begins to speak about his successes in front of anyone, he usually quickly asks her to stop. Schuyler’s humility makes his achievements as an athlete even more admirable.
By Kelsey Lutz, Communications Intern