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Winnen Ready to Make History for ArkansasDate: 06/27/2018
Arkansas’s Special Olympics USA games stand-up paddle boarding team is set to make history.
For the first time ever, Arkansas will have a stand-up paddle boarding squad.
James Winnen, a program coordinator at the Conway Human Development Center, recalls the moment he learned he’d be the head coach of Team Arkansas.
“I’ve coached at the national games before. But I‘ve never been a head coach. When I found out I’d coach the team, I became excited, yet nervous,” he said. “You must earn the opportunity to coach. The selection committee looks for people who will do well with the athletes and meet expectations.”
But what is stand-up paddle boarding?
It’s a sport where a person stands on a surfboard and uses a paddle to move through the water along a path to a designated area. That requires balance, strength, and focus.
Winnen meets with Team Arkansas monthly at Conway’s Beaverfork Lake to practice the activity.
“My two athletes who are going to Seattle to compete, are great paddle boarders,” Winnen said. “One has done stand-up paddle boarding in the past. This is the first time for the other – but, he’s picked it up quickly.”
“I want us to get the gold medal,” Winnen said. “I want us to set a high standard for the sport in our state.”
Aside from helping Arkansas make history, Winnen is also ready to enjoy the opening ceremonies.
“It’s breathtaking. You get in the stadium and you see teams from all over the country, people everywhere,” he said. “Everyone is smiling, cheering, shaking hands, and talking. The first time I went to a Special Olympics USA games, I was in awe. I’m hoping it’s just as special for Arkansas’s first-ever stand-up paddle boarding team as we represent our state in this sport for the first time ever.”