HE’S known as a gentle giant — a mentor and father figure — but for humble Maroubra basketball coach Elias Habelrih, it’s the kids who deserve all the accolades.
Mr Habelrih first stepped up to help the Special Olympics Eastern Sydney Team 11 years ago when their coach retired. He has worked tirelessly with them, alongside co-coach and friend Sue Di Salvo, ever since.
“We first started our involvement with the team with our son Richard, who is autistic ... my wife Randa found the team because we knew he loved sport, but felt excluded,” Mr Habelrih said.
“I’m so proud of where Richard is now, to see him and all the other kids grow up, smiling when they come to basketball, they love to meet other athletes and come together as friends.
“It’s a huge challenge mentoring them sometimes, but I love it ... sometimes on the weekends when we’re out and I’ll hear a voice call out ‘coach!’ and they run up and nearly knock me over ... there’s no bigger reward than that.”
Elias Habelrith with the Special Olympics Eastern Sydney Team at South Sydney High, where they train every Thursday. Picture: AAP IMAGE/ Danny Aarons.
Over the years, Mr Habelrih has helped the club evolve, stepping off the court to get behind the wheel of the team bus and drive the kids all over the state to regional competitions.
He has also just been appointed Basketball Team Coach with Team NSW for the 2018 National Games in Adelaide, with Ms Di Salvo.
“Five of our players have also been selected for the team after competing at regionals in the Sydney East division,” he said.
“They have gained not only basketball skills but also communication skills, I love working with them, I’m so proud of them.”
Randa Habelrih described her husband as an “unsung hero.”
“For he and Sue to be chosen as NSW coaches, I am just so excited for them,” Mrs Habelrih said.
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