Marissa Lee Brzescinski has been selected as the next Head Coach for the 2015 US Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles California. Marissa currently serves as the Head Coach for the Davie County Special Olympics Equestrian Team, and has served previously as the Assistant Coach for Team USA at the 2007 Games in Shanghai, China and the 2011 Games in Athens, Greece. The 2015 World Games will be held in Los Angeles California from July 25th-August 2nd, 2015. For additional information, please visit www.specialolympicsteamusa.org, www.LA2015.org, or www.dixielandfarm.com.
Marissa was introduced to the Special Olympics program shortly after moving to Davie County in 2003. She describes herself as falling in love with the Special Olympics Equestrian program and being “hooked” ever since her first training session with the Davie County team. Marissa coaches at Dixieland Farm in Mocksville, which she owns with her husband, Kris. Many of the horses that the athletes use are owned by Dixieland, where they are trained to work with the needs of the participants.
Special Olympics athletes have taught Marissa the power of the human spirit, to never give up and to truly love what you do. Not a training session or show goes by that she is not blown away by the spirit of camaraderie and the determination that the athletes display. Special Olympics inspires Marissa to try harder, to give more, to extend herself in the service of others and to be an inspiration to those around her. Marissa inspires Special Olympics athletes and their families throughout the year.
The athletes who make up the 2015 Team USA Equestrian team hail from Arizona, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania. To qualify for the World Games, athletes must receive a Gold Medal at a State-Level Competition and meet other qualifications.
North Carolina – Special Olympics Pioneer
North Carolina was one of the early pioneers in the Special Olympics Equestrian sports, which became a model for developing the national program. Coach Brzescinski currently serves as an advisor for the NC Sports Development Team for Special Olympics North Carolina, and her athletes regularly compete in local and regional events representing Davie County.
Athletes Bring Courage and a Smile
The games include Dressage, English and Western Equitation, Western Riding, Working Trails, Pole Bending, Barrel Racing, and Team Relays. Marissa adds, at the World Games, “They do not get bring their own horses with them, instead they will have to ride horses assigned to them upon arrival in Los Angeles…horses they have never met and know nothing about. Part of what I love about coaching the World Games athletes is the particular challenge of having to ride an unfamiliar horse. This is something that would NEVER be expected of an Olympic rider or most other riders in any competition, much less an international competition. Yet, these athletes show up and ride whatever horse they’re given, with little time to practice or even get to know their mount before having to enter the show ring. Each Athlete does this with courage and a smile!”
Equestrian Training – Life Skills, Drive and Determination
Equestrian sports are highly regarded in Special Olympics competition for the life skills taught and practiced in the training. Special needs athletes with various disabilities are empowered by working with horses and riding. Working with large animals helps the athletes develop coordination, good posture, balance, and body awareness, as well as teaching them to respect nature and how to groom and care for the animals. Marissa feels blessed to be part of the program, “I’ve learned so much from my athletes; tolerance, strength under pressure, good sportsmanship, perseverance…and try to instill in them not only the skills they need to compete in the sport on the local, state, national and international level, but also the drive and determination to meet each