As seen on KATU News 4/14/2023
If you’ve been to a West Linn football game, you may have seen assistant coach Shawn Kelly on the sidelines.
What you might not know is that, when he’s not coaching football, he’s using his skills to create a welcoming space for people with special needs to improve their lives and health.
Kelly works for Specialty Athletic Training, a fitness center that specializes in training people with disabilities. While Kelly does his work in both Portland and Vancouver, Specialty Athletic Training also has locations in Eugene and Bend.
As one might expect, Kelly’s clientele come with their own unique challenges, starting with the pressure that can come with traditional gyms.
“In the past, places like gyms can be intimidating or less inclusive,” Kelly said. “I think as we’ve come into this new age of people and understanding differences and where they come from, it’s been awesome to see.”
However, Kelly told us that, in many ways, his clientele’s training journeys are just like anyone else’s.
“I think everybody kind of has their own starting point, whether it's somebody that's within our clientele or not,” Kelly said. “Everybody's got their baseline, or their start, and the goal is we all want to be fit, whatever that means for us.”
Kelly has been with Specialty Athletic Training for about a year. Watching him work with his clients, it is not hard to believe that he worked in mental health for 10 years before that. He is personable and makes a genuine effort to get to know each of his clients.
“That’s probably the main piece of it, just that social piece,” Kelly said. “They feel welcome, they feel loved and cared for, and then the fitness stuff comes secondary.”
In addition to making a difference in the lives of his clients, Kelly is also inspiring the next generation of athletic trainers. Emma Ehlers, an intern at Specialty Athletic Training, said he is a true source of inspiration as she enters the field.
“He really showed me how to work with the clients and not take anything too seriously,” Ehlers said. “He keeps the vibes light around here, which I think is really important. And it makes the atmosphere a lot better.”
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS*D, CSPS*D is the Founder and CEO of Specialty Athletic Training. He is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. Lockard is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America and the advisory board for the NSCA Oregon chapter.