Rob McCarthy of Dow Schofield Watts Transaction Services is a Special Olympics coach who will be playing a key role at this year’s National Games in Sheffield
I come from a family of runners. My dad George and Uncle Albert were both members of Rotherham Harriers and by the age of 12, I had joined them too. My brother Martin, who has a learning disability, shared our love of sport so when some of the local special schools started an athletics class at the Harriers’ ground, mum took him along.
I would go with them and cheer him on from the sidelines. Martin thrived on the physical exertion and the thrill of taking part and went on to compete in regional Special Olympics events. Meanwhile I developed an interest in sport and special needs. I became a running coach and volunteered at the Special Olympics National Games in Sheffield in 1993.
As we grew up, Martin stopped taking part in sport as at that time, there were few opportunities for young adults like him, while my volunteer roles dwindled as I became more focused on my career. My job with a big four accountancy firm took me to the US, where I went on to join an investment bank.
While living in New Jersey with my wife Karen, I became involved in coaching young athletes with learning difficulties. In 2012 I took on a role with the Special Olympics as athletics coach for Team New Jersey.
With the state due to host the Special Olympics USA National Games in June 2014, it was an exciting time and the team committed themselves to 18 months of intensive training. However, by the time the Games came around, things had changed for me. Karen and I had decided it was time to return to the UK and I’d agreed to start Dow Schofield Watts’ financial due diligence practice in Yorkshire. Our bags and possessions were packed and we were ready to leave.
Unwilling to let the Special Olympics team down, I sent Karen home alone with our two dogs. She managed the move without me, while I stayed on for a further month for the Games.
I remain committed to the cause and am now national coaching and competition adviser for Special Olympics GB. I am particularly looking forward to the National Summer Games in Sheffield this August, where I will be deputy competition manager.
Isolation and poor health are problems for many people with intellectual disabilities. Sport helps them to improve their fitness, develop social skills and meet new people. Martin has made lifetime friends as a result.
It has had a deep impact on me too. Working in a fast-moving finance environment and advising on multi-million pound deals, it has helped to keep me grounded and inspired a sense of humility. By day I try to make an impact on clients’ businesses, by night I make an impact on people’s lives at a local level. Life is about keeping the balance.