By Sarah Tone, Communications Coordinator

Janice started volunteer coaching with Special Olympics Manitoba in 2009.  She started off as an assistant coach with Navviestc Track Club and in 2010, she took over as head coach.  She is still with Navviestc and has no plans on retiring!  

As a Special Olympics athletics coach, Janice became an expert at every event. Over the years, she has learned to train sprints, mid distance, long distance, high jump, long jump, shot put, mini javelin, and discus. Janice has had the opportunity to learn from Athletics Manitoba’s veteran coaches including Wayne McMahon, Ming Wu, Alanna Boudreau, and Justin Charrie. 

Janice’s training has allowed her to pursue high-performance coaching as well. She is especially fond of her coaching experiences with Team Manitoba for two Western Canada Summer Games (2015 & 2019), Canada Summer Games (2017 & 2022) and Tri-Province. 

At the most recent Canada Games, this past summer in Niagara, Janice had four Special Olympics athletes competing in the 100m and 200m. Regan Hofley earned a silver in the 100m and a gold in 200m, and Vesta Orchard won bronze in both events.  Stephen Rozniatoski had his best results in five years, and Matt Jolicoeur had a personal best in his 100m, against a very strong field.

Vesta’s wins contributed to Janice’s most memorable moments of her career. Janice had been trying to work on Vesta’s accelerations and it just wasn’t working. She finally put cones down and told her that these were people she had to pass. At the time, she didn’t know if her adaptive coaching techniques were working, but when Vesta competed in her first race at the Games, she came from about 10m behind another competitor and earned a bronze medal.  When Janice went to congratulate her, Vesta screamed “I passed the pylon!” While smiling and enjoying the moment, Vesta pulled the exact same move again in her second race to win her second bronze medal. 

Janice reflects positively on her 2022 Games experience, and thought it was amazing how Team Manitoba athletes from other sports all supported each other. 

“I had so much fun at the Games getting to know my athletes a little better as people and watching them grow as athletes. I would not have missed it for anything!”

Another career highlight happened in 2018, when Janice was chosen as the provincial head coach for the Special Olympics Canada National Games. Along with her five assistant coaches, she trained 20 athletes for the competition. All 20 of those athletes returned home from the Games with at least one medal. 

Janice is Special Olympics Canada national team training coach and has trained athletes for various Special Olympics World Games including the 2015 Los Angeles Games (Ryan Kneisz – pentathlon – gold medalist), the 2019 Abu Dhabi/Dubai Games (Regan Hofley – pentathlon and 4 x 100 gold medalist), and is currently training Regan for the 2023 Berlin World Games in 800m and mini javelin.

Janice says that the reason that she coaches, and her philosophy, are about the same.  

“I coach because I love to watch my athletes grow in their chosen sport and in life.  Special Olympics athletes are often told that they cannot do something, and are not given the chance to try. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn and to grow in whatever sport/activity they choose.”  

Sometimes, she has to come up with different training techniques for different athletes, as one strategy does not always work for everyone. Her ultimate goal is to allow her athletes to learn and grow, in their own time and way, in a welcoming and accepting environment. Janice teaches that competition is not about the medals, but about doing your best and growing.