Upper Arlington resident Tom Morgan was recently honored by the Agonis Club as its Jimmy Crum/Dr. Frank Sobolewski coach of the year for coaching Special Olympics athletes.

Upper Arlington resident Tom Morgan was recently honored by the Agonis Club as its Jimmy Crum/Dr. Frank Sobolewski coach of the year for coaching Special Olympics athletes.

Morgan is head coach for the Flyers Navy Thunderbolts softball team, whose members range in age from 17 to 55 and live all over Franklin County. Morgan became involved with Special Olympics eight years ago when he was looking for a volunteer opportunity.

"These inspired people, they've been hit with so many challenges in their life. They have multiple disabilities," Morgan said. "They may have intelligence challenges, certain physical challenges. All of them have psychological challenges from the way they've been raised, some abused. Somehow they have the strength to come out and compete."

Many of the Thunderbolts teammates live in economically challenged areas and must cope with poverty in addition to their mental and physical disabilities.

"One of our athletes was eating out of garbage cans for quite a while. Some do work in sheltered workshops," Morgan said. "For the most part, they're very motivated people."

Despite the obstacles they face, the Thunderbolts always give their best on the field, Morgan said.

"They're inspiring because they push through and meet the challenges," he said.

Morgan said he was floored to find out he'd been selected as the top coach.

"I was overwhelmed. There are 24 (Special Olympics) teams in Franklin County in various sports. I never expected to get the award, especially with our team being as challenged as we are," Morgan said. "We're not as successful, win-wise, as other teams. Occasionally, the other coaches look over and see us laughing and joking with each other. Success is defined differently for us than others."

Morgan credits fellow coaches David Merrell, Bryan England and Larry Lehring for contributing to the team's success.

Morgan has a talent for promoting sportsmanship and bonding among the athletes, said Dee Hively, Special Olympics director for the Franklin County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

"Tom brings true joy to his team of athletes," Hively said. "He takes a group of individual athletes each year and turns them into a true team. In addition to being an excellent teacher and skill technician, Tom and his fellow coaches stress team, friendship, having fun and being cheerleaders for each other."

An attorney, Morgan said he looks forward each year to the Thunderbolts' season, which runs from June through September, and working with the athletes at games and practices.

"They're really inspiring people," he said. "You might be tired from work and soon as you step out of your car, you're excited about it."

cbournea@thisweeknews.com

Tom Morgan