Sharon Boyle’s work with the special needs community spans nearly four decades

Sharon Boyle finds her work with the special needs community rewarding and plans to continue with it as long as she can.

Boyle, the Special Olympics unified sports coordinator, has been working with special needs individuals for almost 40 years, starting with her involvement in the Rainbow Club in Burien.

The director of the program at the time, Donna Oster-Dahl, thought Boyle would do well coaching special needs athletes. Boyle jumped at the opportunity.

“I started coaching bowling and from there, I’m here now,” Boyle said.

The most rewarding part of the job was the growth Boyle saw in the athletes she worked with.

“You watch somebody that comes out and is a little shy at first and doesn’t know where they fit in, and for them to actually come out of their shell and start fitting in and participating… to see that whole thing happen just because you brought them together for a sports program, that’s fabulous,” she said.

Stu Snow, coach of the Federal Way Thunder Blue soccer team, which will play in the Special Olympics 2018 USA Games this July in Seattle, said he can’t think of anyone better than Boyle to work with these programs.

“She has a real good, solid handle on what the athletes need and how far they can go,” he said.

Snow first started coaching special needs teams after his foster daughter joined Federal Way Thunder about 12 years ago, and has coached soccer in Federal Way for 30 years — a hobby after retiring from his career as a truck driver and dispatcher for Todd Shipyards.

While Boyle enjoys all of the sports she coaches, her favorite is softball, she said, because that’s what she grew up playing.

Boyle also said she’d like the community to know the athletes she works with are no different than anyone else.

“Sometimes they’re limited physically or challenged mentally, but they still have the same feelings you have,” she said. “They just may be going through them at a different pace of their life than you are.”

To learn more about the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, which run July 1-6 at locations throughout Puget Sound including Federal Way, visit