CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- A few years back Lindy Blazek didn't have enough on her plate; coaching three sports including Tennessee's Special Olympics swim team, and working on her doctorate. So, she added something else: a club swim team in Chattanooga for children with cognitive disabilities.
"This is my 40th year in Special Olympics. A long time ago I stopped looking at what they couldn't do and what they could do," said Lindy Blazek.
As far as Coach Blazek is concerned the Chattanooga Penguins aren't defined by autism, brain damage or any other disability.
They're simply swimmers in the water, and like any other swimmer in the water they want to win at this week's area Special Olympics meet.
Jason Rogers said at the meet he's looking forward to "some blue ribbons or gold medals."
Teammate Emily Brown added, "I like to compete in swimming."
While competing may be upper most to Emily and Jason, there's more to it, noted Emily's dad Philip who watches every practice he can.
"It's a very proud moment," he said. "I'm not sure they realize how many ways they benefit from things like this."
Coach Blazek said, "It doesn't make a difference if a child is special or not. Sports are good for everybody. It teaches you how to be part of something bigger than yourself."
Blazek and her daughter Megan Grass started the Penguins in 2010. They've since doubled in size and have seen improvement in every child both in and out of the water.
As a lifetime coach, Blazek admitted, when it comes to swim meets, like the upcoming area Special Olympics, there's no holding back.
"I get just as involved at a Special Olympics meet as I do when I coach my non disabled kids. I hoop and I holler, say come on, kick, kick," she said. "I do all the things that I did when I coached at scenic city all those years, you just have to be emotionally involved."
The Penguins practice two times a week at the Brainerd Recreation Center. There's a $10 yearly fee and a $1 fee per practice.
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