When it comes to facing one’s fears, Allison D’Agostino, 25, has conquered them by participating in Special Olympics Missouri for seven years.
D’Agostino competes in bowling and aquatics with aquatics being her favorite sport. “I feel free whenever I’m in the water,” D’Agostino said. “I don’t know why, but I do.”
However, that wasn’t always the case when she first started training with SOMO and her Central Area coaches, Jody Cook and Kelly Collins.
“The first years she trained with us she didn’t compete,” Cook said. “She found competition intimidating. Her second year she was skeptical about competing.”
Luckily for D’Agostino, Cook knew the words of encouragement D’Agostino needed to hear to get out there and compete.
“I told her that for a swimmer of her talent competing was required. I still remember what a kick she got out of her first swim meet!” Cook said.
D’Agostino’s coaches have noticed how those words of encouragement have motivated her to continue competing in aquatics.
“D’Agostino is eager to ask what she can do to improve after each set and constantly strives to better herself as an athlete,” Collins said. “She is always the first one in the pool and the last one out. D’Agostino just enjoys being in the water and you can tell that by her good attitude during practice. I can see the effort she puts in each practice to improve herself and her races.”
Facing her initial fears of competing has allowed D’Agostino to gain confidence in several aspects of her life.
At 25 years old, D’Agostino has lived on her own for nearly four years. Her favorite part about living independently is the privacy. “I get things done much quicker without a roommate,” D’Agostino said.
D’Agostino has her very own YouTube Channel called The Esperanza243 as well as a radio show on BlogTalkRadio.com entitled Show Time, Radio Time. Her experience with these hobbies was a major reason why she was originally nominated by the Central Area to be highlighted in May.
They have allowed her to gain confidence, so much so that she recently trained as a Global Messenger for SOMO and was quite impressive – according to the Central Area Program Director, Diane Brimer. D’Agostino came prepared with a speech that she had written on her very own. She was then given the opportunity to be the athlete speaker at the 2014 Polar Plunge in Columbia.
On top of all of these responsibilities, D’Agostino maintains a job at Wendy’s. “At times, it feels repetitive. But I can’t imagine any other job to have right now,” she said. “Great co-workers, great regular guests to talk with, and 50 percent discount on food; I’m loving it.
It is no surprise that D’Agostino is adored by many of her peers. When asked what sets her apart, Cook said it’s her “fun-loving, outgoing, kind and caring heart/spirit and the fact that she is well rounded. She loves competing, and is a dedicated athlete, but doesn’t take it all too seriously. Her life is balanced with sports, reading, writing and school.”
Collins said despite her reserved nature in the beginning, D’Agostino has recently come into her own in the last few years of involvement in SOMO.
“D’Agostino has a very bright and bubbly personality. She is very upbeat and enjoys laughing at practice, even when she is worn out. D’Agostino is very into her writing and poetry and enjoys sharing her writings with the others on the team. She has a good relationship with her other team members. It is uncommon to see her alone; instead she is interacting with her teammates and seeing how they are doing” Collins said.
Being actively involved with SOMO, D’Agostino has had the ability to impact the lives of those around her as well as her own.
“To me, SOMO is a social sports get-together,” D’Agostino said. “No matter what sport you’re doing, you get to meet new people; you get to stay fit; you improve what you’re great at; your body moves to a rhythm for well-needed exercise. I don’t care about the medals, because I’m having fun with my friends.”
D’Agostino’s peers and coaches have noticed the way in which she puts others first.
“D’Agostino has an infectious joy about her that is contagious” Collins said. “She is always willing to help other athletes out if they do not understand something and she does. She also takes the time to ask other coaches and athletes how they are doing. She truly cares about those around her, which makes her someone that everyone wants to be around.”
A good story that personifies D’Agostino’s positive attitude involves her teammates.
D’Agostino eagerly took on a leadership role at a recent swim meet. Rather than focusing on herself, she made sure that her teammates were focused and excited for the upcoming competition.
Collins recalls her “high-fiving the three other swimmers on her relay before they each went to their respective ends of the pool.”
D’Agostino didn’t stop there, either.
“During awards, D’Agostino put her arms around the rest of the relay to unify the relay as a one group and not four individual swimmers.” Collins said. “She focuses on the team and not on herself, which is such a wonderful thing.”
Anything is Possible
“Since I became an athlete, I’ve changed,” D’Agostino said. “My confidence is growing. I have more friends now than ever, who I need to stay connected with. I’m getting more connections through SOMO.
“I’m a Global Messenger, which I absolutely love and because of that, my YouTube channel and my radio show have improved. I’ll finally get a book published this year and I am proud of who I am becoming.”