2021 State Flag Football: An Athlete Leader

Jonathan Steiner was one of 300 Special Olympics Illinois athletes who traveled across the state to compete in the 2021 State Flag Football last weekend in Peoria. Jonathan and his team, the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association (NISRA) Knights, came in from Crystal Lake, Ill., which is about a three-hour road trip.

Jonathan says it’s worth the trip. “My favorite part about state competitions is getting to meet other people, forming new friendships and working together with my team to accomplish our goals,” he said.

State Flag Football is one of 11 state sports competitions that Special Olympics Illinois offers each year. State tournaments are a culmination of all the hard work and skills building that teams and coaches put in throughout the year.

The hard work that Jonathan and the NISRA Knights put in this year paid off as they won gold in Division 4. Jonathan says although he enjoys winning and has more than 200 medals at home from past events, he really doesn’t do it for the medals. “Our team plays for each other. It’s about being brave in the attempt, even when we make mistakes,” he said.

In addition to flag football, Jonathan also participates in other activities with Special Olympics Illinois. He is an athlete leader and recently gave a presentation on how to reach your goals at a SOILL Athlete Leadership workshop. After their win over Envision Squad, the NISRA Knights’ coaches presented each player with a superlative award. Jonathan won Player Coach of the Year. It is evident that Jonathan is an awesome athlete leader.

Thank you to the 300 athletes, 90 coaches, 50 volunteers and 15 officials for your hard work and dedication to 2021 State Flag Football. This was the first year the tournament was held at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria. We look forward to hosting State Flag Football there for many years in the future.

Click here to see bracket results.

Click here to view photos from the event.

Thank you to the Chicago Bears for sponsoring the event and supporting Special Olympics Illinois athletes like Jonathan, who is such a big Bears fan that even his room is painted orange and navy!

Learn more about State Flag Football here.

Learn more about the SOILL Athlete Leadership program and Athlete Leadership Academy here.