As the Special Olympics sports program coordinator and director of the annual Friendship Theater play for the city of Federal Way, Sharon Boyle is a fixture at the Federal Way Community Center.
Boyle, who was hired at the city about 30 years ago, has worked hard to develop the programs aimed to serve teens and adults with developmental disabilities for the city. She does the same program for the Federal Way Public Schools for younger children.
As Special Olympics sports program coordinator, Boyle is in charge of the various aspects of maintaining the sports offered at the community center. From coordinating sports teams, coaches and volunteers to scheduling games and travel arrangements each season, Boyle said a lot of her time is spent on paperwork and keeping things organized.
“We’ve got quite a few sports that we offer, and we’re trying to get a few more in,” Boyle said, adding the center has teams for bowling, flag football, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, softball, track and field, power lifting and swimming.
While she takes great pride in coordinating the teams and all that goes along with that, one of her favorite roles is that of coach.
“I do coach some of them because, you know, I’m not all about doing paperwork,” Boyle joked. “I’m about wanting to get out there to be hands on, too.”
Boyle said she has participated in most of the sports she has coached throughout, as well.
“I think the only one I haven’t done is power lifting,” Boyle said. “Soccer is probably more fun to coach than play.”
Boyle said coaching adults with special needs to prepare them for competition has its challenges. She said, instead of normal instruction, coaching requires a little more hand-on demonstration than verbal cues, with quite a bit of repetition involved.
“On the flip side, it’s just totally, totally rewarding,” Boyle said, adding the best part is watching one of her players progress and seeing how they gain in confidence and skill. “It’s almost like a light bulb [turning on] sometimes. Their faces are just so full of joy and excitement. You just can’t help but have a little heart tug there.”
Boyle is especially proud of launching the Friendship Theater, where she directs actors in the program in an annual play, usually musicals.
Last year, the Friendship Theater play was a version of “Alice in Wonderland,” and this year, the troupe is performing “Shrek the Musical.”
Boyle said the theater repertoire sticks mainly to musicals because they are easier to perform and are more fun than plays with just speaking parts, which can border on being too serious and dry for her actors.
“They’re probably the best thing for this group,” she said. “For one thing, they love singing. They love being able to get up there and sing and perform. … It’s amazing how much they are able to accomplish in the time frame they have.”
Boyle said she and the volunteers who help don’t have to direct the group of actors as much as someone might think. While sometimes the actors require line prompts, they do a good job of learning their lines and the dance routines, she said. And they take great joy in performing, Boyle added.
“You would think they were on Broadway, I’ll tell you,” Boyle said.
After 30 years with the city, Boyle said she doesn’t anticipate working in her current roles for much longer. Her husband has already retired, and he would like to travel, she said. Boyle would like to continue directing the Friendship Theater to make sure the program continues, and she may come back to coach a team or two for the Special Olympics sports program.
For as much work as she has put into the city’s programs, the evenings and weekends spent coaching or putting together scenery and props for the Friendship Theater, Boyle said it has been worth it just seeing the joy it has brought to the athletes and actors, as well as their parents.
“The reward for watching this kind of stuff happening is just phenomenal,” Boyle said.
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