Special Olympics: Basketball

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Added on November 19, 2017 by Shailee.S

Special Olympics: Basketball | IMG_3098

Volunteering at the Special Olympics State Office was a very inspiring experience. While I only performed clerical work, I quickly learned how Special Olympics plays an integral role in the athletes' lives: inspiring confidence and teamwork.

When reading through feedback questionnaires from the athletes, one of the questions asked was: "What is your favorite part about playing sports with the Special Olympics?" The athletes' responses unanimously said they enjoyed playing and meeting other people. Many of them mentioned that they were alleviated of social anxiety when playing team sports.

Considering the benefits Special Olympics (SO) events had on the athletes, I was inspired to provide them more opportunities for memorable experiences. As a member of multiple WPS (Windermere Preparatory School) athletic teams, I knew about the extensive athletic resources and experienced coaches we have. I thought this would be an excellent way to use WPS resources. Furthermore, my peers would also get a chance to train and teach while playing a sport they loved. Thus, I conceived the idea to create clinics which integrated Special Olympics athletes with WPS athletes.

The first Special Olympics-WPS camp was with the WPS Basketball program. On the morning of November 18, 2017, WPS hosted its first Special Olympics-WPS athletics clinic, with 25 special olympic athletes and 44 WPS High School basketball players (3 teams of players). I did not expect such a large turnout. Each of the Special Olympic Athletes were paired off with 2 WPS Athletes. They worked together to complete drills and at the end participated in a scrimmage.

I witnessed not only the Special Olympics athletes laughing and having fun, but also my fellow WPS classmates. The WPS players were lifting kids up and teaching them how to slam dunk. They also took the opportunity to teach all the athletes the most important part of a game: the celebration dance. The coaches turned on music and the players formed a circle to watch. They took turns dancing and showed each other how to do different dance moves. As I watched this, I saw how the camps had the ability to create awareness and an inclusive environment.

As a school privileged with many skilled coaches, WPS was able to share its resources and help improve the skills of the SO players. While there were many differences between the Special Olympics players and the WPS players, their love for the same sport brought them together and created a lasting bond.

This camp created a welcoming atmosphere and allowed both groups to share a sport they love. After the camp, Coach Ben Wilson came up to me and said, "This was one of the coolest things I have been a part of and I want the Special Olympic athletes to be a part of our team at a game." Many athletes saw it takes one small connection to form a friendship. With more awareness and exposure to special needs athletes, I hope our WPS community will become more inclusive. I believe it starts with camps such as these.

If you would like to get more involved in the Special Olympics community, reach out to your county chapter and sign up as a coach or an assistant coach. In addition, the state office is always looking for volunteers. The Special Olympics are a great way to spread your passion for a sport while helping a good cause.

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