May 8, 2009 — Martin Block, professor of kinesiology in the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, was selected as one of 40 Exemplary Coaches by Special Olympics Inc. in celebration of the organization's 40th anniversary.
When Block was an adapted physical educator – a physical educator for children with disabilities – and a Special Olympics coach in Northern Virginia in the early 1980s, he found that there wasn't a program for students with the most severe disabilities.
Block lobbied to get these students involved in his local Special Olympics program, then created an adapted Special Olympics program that he ran as part of the local games for three years.
Based in part on his program, Special Olympics International recruited him to serve on a task force to create a similar program internationally, culminating in 1988 with Block serving as the primary author of the internationally sanctioned Motor Activities Training Program. The program is now implemented worldwide and has been part of the International Summer Special Olympics Games since 1991, including the most recent games in Shanghai, China.
Block, who came to U.Va. in 1992, continues to serve as a technical director and consultant for Special Olympics Inc. He also serves as the head volleyball coach for the local Special Olympics program in Charlottesville, and his graduate students have volunteered for the programs in golf, bowling, basketball, track and field, tennis and swimming.
He is recognized in an article in Spirit, the Special Olympics magazine.