Special Olympics picks NKY swim coach to lead its World Team
Poolside at Northern Kentucky University’s Recreation Center, Debbie Ogden yells, "Big arms! Big arms!" as she coaches a member of the Special Olympics Northern Kentucky Dolphins, who swims the backstroke. Ogden is about to get a lot busier.
She has just been named Special Olympics World Team Swim Coach for the U.S., and will leave for Germany in June. Nine swimmers from across America will compete.
Ogden is no stranger to the national stage. She’s already coached the USA Games. A handful of her local swimmers took gold during those games, including Justin Hale and Maddie Brinkman.
The Dolphins are in the process of building back up. The team numbered more than 100 pre-COVID, and is now about 55-60.
At the Dolphins practice Saturday, Ogden didn't want to talk about herself, but her team did.
"I think Coach Debbie earned that Coach of the Year and for pushing us to get faster in our strokes," says Brinkman.
We were thrilled to present our 2022 Annual Awards today. Congratulations to Volunteer of the Year Brian Parsley, Athlete Volunteer of the Year Phillip Riley, Athlete of the Year Caitlin Roy and Coach of the Year Debbie Ogden. Learn more about them all at https://t.co/5M8rfUYJ0j pic.twitter.com/b1qnQtO8D5— Special Olympics KY (@sokentucky) January 19, 2023
Hale is glad Ogden pushes him to get better times. "From October to June, I cut my time by, like, 30 seconds and all that was because of the practices," he says.
For parent Derrick Theetge, it's more than just winning for his son Calvin. "His confidence alone in the pool is huge. Like Coach Debbie said, before he couldn't swim the length of the pool."
He can now, and is working on the backstroke.
Ogden almost didn't go back to the pool after her swimmer son with special needs died in 2005. She now says she is so glad she did.
"Every one of these swimmers have woven a way into my heart and it's special," she says.