Dickinson man named Special Olympics coach of the year for North Dakota
Curt Duppong may be a little bit more than a coach. He does his best to help his athletes thrive on and off the field and pushes them to be the best they can be.
Duppong was recently named the coach of the year for Special Olympics North Dakota. He coaches basketball, track and field and soccer for the Dickinson team.
"I like to think I'm not just being a coach but being a good influence in the athletes' lives that I do coach," he said.
Chantel Keller, who nominated him for coach of the year and is also involved with Special Olympics in Dickinson, said Duppong is very dedicated to Special Olympics and the athletes he coaches.
"I've seen how much time and dedication he puts in," she said. "It's not about winning for him. He just makes sure that everyone who's participating is having fun and trying the hardest. The outcome is not what matters to him. He also makes sure everyone has an equal opportunity and chance to participate in whatever way that they can."
Duppong spends around four hours a week preparing for a running practices during the season. He also helps out with fundraising efforts and tries to recruit new athletes and coaches whenever he can.
Duppong has been involved with Special Olympics since 2011 when he and his family moved to Dickinson. Duppong said his son has mild autism and the family was looking for a way for him to get out some extra energy while making new friends at the same time. While he originally started out cheering on his son and teammates in the stands, Duppong said he quickly found himself on the sidelines coaching.
Three coaches and an athlete have been were selected in July to attend the national Special Olympics competition next year. Additionally, a former athlete Cliff Brunmeier was entered into the North Dakota Special Olympics Hall of Fame recently.
Duppong said Special Olympics athletes are often told, "You can't do this or you can't do that," in their everyday lives, but he tries to challenge the athletes during games and practices to do their absolute best, whether it's running a little faster or scoring a basket.
"I think they can do everything," he said. "When you put a little bit of belief in yourself and put some belief in those kids and they can feel it then you can see them move mountains for you. ... Just a positive belief in the athletes helps them out on the field and I think it gives them confidence in their everyday lives. It's about building them up as athletes and then letting them take their skills to the rest of the world."