- What is GMST ?
GMST stands for Gwinnett Masters Special Teams. GMST was formerly GMSO, which was in turn spun off from Gwinnett County Special Olympics. Gwinnett County Special Olympics now supports the school-age athletes and GMST supports the adult athletes. back to top
- Why the name change?
GMSO was an accredited agency of SOGA (Special Olympics Georgia), not a stand-alone organization. GMSO obtained its non-profit organization 501(c)(3) status through SOGA. After 4 years in business, and after winning an award for best local program, GMSO was informed by SOGA that its name was invalid for a Special Olympics organization since the words Special Olympics did not appear first. We had the opportunity for our own non-profit status and an organization that could provide much more than just sports opportunities so we seized the opportunity and became Greater Atlanta Pathways, with GMST being the program that is responsible for sports activities. Also, we wanted to partner with Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation to secure favorable rates for fields and other benefits. This arrangement made it easy to do so. Finally, as GMSO we came to realize that we did not have adequate insurance coverage through Special Olympics. back to top
- But you participate in Special Olympics state games, doesn't that make you a part of Special Olympics?
No. We are an independent organization under Greater Atlanta Pathways, but because we wish to send teams and individuals to compete in the State Games provided by SOGA, we have an accredited and elected management team to interface with SOGA. Our coaches must obtain training from SOGA and follow certain other rules. This arrangement is similar to that of other organizations such as Just People, Annandale Village, Special Ks, etc. The same management team serves as part of a required board for managing the partnership with Gwinnett County Parks & Rec. and for managing other aspects of GMST. back to top
- What does "Masters" mean?
Masters refers to athletes that are 22 and older. back to top
- Don't you also support younger athletes?
Yes. Athletes in the age range 16 to 21 are termed Seniors. They are usually still in school and supported by the school program. However, any Senior athlete can play up a level and participate with the Masters. This is typically done because the school-age program does not support the sport they are interested in. Also in a few sports, for this same reason, even younger athletes may practice with the Masters athletes for the purpose of training. For Special Olympics competition, however, only Senior and Masters athletes may participate together at the state or higher levels (there are some exceptions for Unified partners; for instance a parent may compete with a Junior athlete on a unified bocce team). back to top
- What is required for an athlete to participate?
The first step is for the athlete to fill out the required medical form. Medical forms must be renewed every 3 years. An athlete with a valid medical form (or their parent/guardian/caregiver) should contact either the head coach of the sport of interest or the coordinator. back to top
- Can non-disabled persons compete?
Yes, in a couple of ways. The core of our sports program conforms to SOGA's rules. For some sports SOGA has "Unified" events. Currently GMST has Unified Bocce and Volleyball teams and may add others in the future. In Unified sports, disabled athletes and non-disabled (unified) partners play together on the same team.
GMST also supports Gwinnett County's Golden Games. Persons 50 years of age or older may compete in the games with our group. back to top
- Are only athletes who live in Gwinnett County eligible?
No, athletes in other counties may participate with us. back to top
- What is required for an athlete to participate?
The first step is for the athlete to fill out the required SOGA medical form. This allows for a seamless transition to State Special Olympics competition for those GMST teams or individuals that choose to participate beyond the GMST League schedule. Medical forms must be renewed every 3 years. With a valid medical form the athlete or their parent/caregiver should contact either the head coach of the selected sport or the coordinator for further information. We also ask for a Registration Form to be filled out once a year. back to top
- What is required from a parent or caregiver?
Commitment to your athlete to guarantee he or she has a great experience. This primarily involves transportation. We encourage all people involved including siblings, friends, and grandparents, to participate as fans, and as volunteers for fundraising events. This program can be as great as you are willing to help make it be. back to top
- How do I know my athlete is safe?
All GMST coaches, chaperones, management team members, and volunteers must undergo a thorough background check every two years. Many of our parents are trained nurses and other medical professionals and we make every effort to have someone proficient in first aid available at all of our events. back to top
- What advantage(s) does GMST offer its members?
After leaving school, most adults with disabilities have no activities to participate in. GMST provides the opportunity for not only sports, but for athletes and families to socialize through banquets, road trips, etc. In fact the social aspect is often just as important for the parents and caregivers as for the athletes. Parents need to be thinking about and planning what happens to their son or daughter when they are gone. Talking this through with other parents in similar situations can be invaluable. In addition to informal socialization, there are meeting sessions provided by Greater Atlanta Pathways in which speakers in many areas are invited to come talk to the parents and caregivers. back to top
- How many athletes does GMST support?
Nearly 200 with more joining each year. back to top
- What sports are supported by GMST?
Exit the Q&A and return to the sports supported section on the latest support for sports by GMST. Please contact the coordinator if you would like to see support for another sport. back to top
- I would like to attend some events. When are they?
Special Olympics is a year-round program. There's always something going on. Please check out our Calendar for more information. back to top
- Do athletes have to win in local events to go to State Games?
No, all athletes have the opportunity to go to SOGA state games as long as GMST and SOGA can certify enough volunteers to provide coaches and chaperones for them. back to top
- If your team wins at the state games, do they get to go to national or international games?
No, that's not the way it works. The state organizations are asked to fill certain slots for national and international competitions. So an invitation from SOGA is required. We have had several of our athletes participate in national and international competitions. back to top
- How do I get trained as a coach?
You can request training through our board training chairperson, the head coach, or the coordinator. SOGA provides occasional training classes and there is a form to request a training session. GMST is working on addition training materials and coursework. back to top
- Why do we need a board?
An advisory board (also called "management team") is a requirement of SOGA. The advisory board is accredited by and accountable to SOGA. back to top
- What does the board do?
Among other things, the board is responsible for:? Supporting the coordinator
? Managing revenues and expenses and reporting monthly to SOGA
? Meeting at least 4 times a year
? Recruiting volunteers, athletes, and donors
? Raising community awareness
? Training coaches
? Organizing competitions
? Distributing information back to top
- Who is on the board and how do I contact them?
Visit our Boards page on our site for all the members' contact info. back to top
- When does the board meet?
Board meetings are usually the 3rd Monday in each month. All meetings are open. Anyone can attend. However since some meetings are dinner meetings, it's best to let a board member know a couple of days in advance if you would like to attend, especially if you wish to dine. The meeting schedule can be found on the Greater Atlanta PATHWAYS calendar. back to top
- I want to donate to a worthy charity but why should I pick GMST?
GMST is an all-volunteer organization. 100% of your donation will go to help special needs athletes to achieve their dreams. GMST is local. You can see the fruits of your donation happening right in your backyard. I could go on, but you get the idea. back to top
- I thought Special Olympics was free. Why does it cost money to participate?
Free just means that someone else has paid for it. This is true for Special Olympics too. Here is a partial list of items that must be paid for:
-Field Rental Fees
To help finance these expenses, GMST asks for participation fees from the athletes. This money pays for a portion of the expenses. Donations and fundraising pay for the remainder. back to top
- Don't you get money from the state to cover these?
No. In fact the board must pay SOGA for each athlete, coach, and chaperone attending a summer, fall, or winter games event. But we see this fee as a bargain, since it includes housing for a weekend, some meals and of course the competition. back to top
- But why is it so expensive?
Simply put, it's not expensive. Not including the bowling league, the average athlete will play 2 or 3 sports and will be asked to contribute about $225 per year. When you compare the expenses of a high-school sport or even intramurals, this is a bargain. A single high school or intramural sport will cost more than this, possibly as much as $1000 or more. We ask for less than $20 a week from our Special Olympics athletes. We believe that GMST is the best bargain in sports. back to top
- What if our athlete simply can't afford to make the requested donation?
No payment is required simply to compete with Special Olympics. For the league, we will not refuse to let an athlete participate because of money. One option would be to volunteer for fundraising events. The coach or a board member can help you strike a balance between volunteering and money. back to top
- I understand that on an annual or per-month basis the cost is pretty cheap, but is there a way to spread out donations so I don't get hit with one large donation in a single month?
Yes, you are welcome to make partial donations. We would prefer the first as soon as possible and the last before the end of season. We can even do a monthly credit card charge if you like. back to top
- Do you accept credit cards?
Yes, we can now accept credit card or debit card payments. We can also accept payments online. back to top
- I've heard there is also a membership fee?
A: Yes, this is an annual membership for Greater Atlanta Pathways that gives you access to GMST leagues and other non-sports programs. The fee is currently $60. A lifetime membership fee of $600 may be chosen instead. This can be a good option, especially for those in danger of losing government benefits because they have amassed too much money. If you have already paid $60, you can upgrade to a lifetime membership by paying the difference. back to top
- Who should I make a check out to?
To "GAP" Greater Atlanta Pathways. Checks can be mailed to:
220 Bayswater Drive, Suwanee, GA 30024 back to top
- What about fundraising? Can't we raise enough money so the athletes don't have to pay?
It is a goal of GMST and GAP to increase our fundraising through corporate donations, grants, etc. so that we can decrease the amount we request from our participants and their families. However, we will probably always ask for some donation from the athletes. When they contribute time and money they feel more a part of the organization. back to top
- I'd like to make a donation. How can I make sure that my money goes to a specific sport? Doesn't it all go into one big pot?
It's easy to specify a sport. Just write the sport in the "For" line on the check. Money can be earmarked for a sport or for sponsorship of an athlete. If nothing is specified, then the money goes into the general fund. Just be aware that per IRS rules, if you donate for a specific person the donation is not tax deductible. back to top
- Does GMST have any policies in place for dealing wiht misbehaviors?
Yes, we do. In the registration form you will find the GMST Athlete's Code of Conduct. This is also online on the Forms page. We ask that all parents and caregivers read and initial these and that they communicate them to the athlete as best they can. We also reference the GMST Disciplinary Policy which may be downloaded. The Disciplinary Policy outlines a series of steps that coaches and other volunteers should take when dealing with violations of the Code of Conduct. Severe and repeated infractions may result in suspension from the program.