NCAA Division III is engaged in a partnership with Special Olympics this year. According to the NCAA Website, the purpose of the partnership is to improve the lives of Special Olympics athletes through their involvement with Division III student-athletes and to foster a mutual learning experience between Division III student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes.
On Saturday, four Mule athletes representing four sports (field hockey, volleyball, basketball and softball) and field hockey coach Megan Eddinger paticipated in a Special Olympics event. Junior Devon Barber filed this report:
Most people would argue that beautiful Saturdays aren’t meant to be spent inside - except the members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee who spent a great St. Patrick’s Day afternoon at Jordan Lanes for the Special Olympics Lehigh County Bowling Event.
Coach Eddinger, Brittany Blohm, Kate Clawson, Erica Wenzel and I all hopped in a mini-van behind Martin Luther Saturday morning to head over to the alley. After a much-needed stop at Dunkin Donuts, we arrived to find that we missed a memo. We were all dressed in Muhlenberg t-shirts, but many of the athletes were dressed in St. Patrick’s Day attire. One of the staff members even had a green beard! Still, we were welcomed with open arms by the staff, athletes and the local Girl Scouts who were helping out as well.
The staff seemed stressed from the beginning and we were a bit nervous. The reason behind this tension was because there were 96 bowlers that we had to keep track of! Bowlers were either playing individually against other bowlers in the same lane, or there were two teams that were competing against each other in opposing lanes. It was handled pretty smoothly, though, as the competition started at 1:00 on the dot.
The national anthem was played after the reciting of the Special Olympics Oath:
“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
It was pretty powerful to hear all of the athletes say this oath before they began bowling. It represented a lot of what Special Olympics Lehigh County is about, where their philosophy asserts the athletic spirit of courage and joy, as well as giving those with disabilities the opportunity to share their skills and friendship with the community as a whole. Special Olympics Lehigh County provides year-round sports competitions, such as for basketball, gymnastics, track and field and more, for adults and children of a variety of ages. For this event specifically, the bowling winners had the chance to advance to different competitions, so it was safe to say that the contest was fierce from the get-go.
Coach and Kate were assigned to keep score for the lanes that had a battle between two teams. Erica, Brittany and I were placed on reward duty, so we got the chance to sit back and watch a couple games before we had to turn on our math brains to add up the scores.
The bowlers were allowed to practice a bit before the scoring started. We were a little confused to see how even though they were on different teams, they switched back and forth to each other’s lanes between turns. I could see Coach starting to get uncomfortable because we all didn’t really know what was going on. Coach asked one of the bowlers, Christina, to explain the switching of lanes. She claimed that this is what they have been doing for weeks, so they knew that what they were doing was correct.
Christina went on to explain how the bowling event that we attended was actually the end of an eight-week series, where bowlers competed every weekend since sometime in January. Bowlers that were at this event were allowed to compete to move onto the next competition if they were present at at least five of the eight weekend events. With this being said, the athletes took control, and quickly moved from the practice round onto their competing games.
It was fun to walk back and forth between games to see how well they were doing. One of the bowlers, David, was angry about one of his scores, 130-something mind you, which is way higher than I would ever get personally. I told him I celebrate when I break 100 and he laughed at me.
It was certain that these athletes were in it to win it, although the more serious bowlers were also balanced with those who were there just to have a good time. It showed because they were the ones that were making jokes with us and taking pictures with us. Kate especially looked like she was having a great time, as she was surrounded by two teams of all happy-go-lucky bowlers. All in all, it was fun to take photos, laugh, and just watch and learn as they racked up impressive scores.
At the end, Erica, Brittany and I were in charge of adding up the scores and distributing the ribbons. I think Erica would agree when I write thank goodness for calculators! The scores were added and a ribbon was presented to each bowler representing first, second, third or fourth place, with their names and individual scores written on the back.
It was an amazing feeling to see how excited they were to receive their ribbons from Brittany for any place that they got. It really allowed me to think back about why I started playing sports in the first place: for the happiness I feel because of it.
Kate Clawson said, “Overall, the experience at the Special Olympics bowling event this Saturday was very rewarding. Interacting with the athletes was awesome. They were all such great sports and that’s something I really admired about them, as they admired us for volunteering our time.”
I think generally we were just happy to interact with each other, especially on such a fun holiday and a beautiful day. It was something that I’ll always remember, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
If you would like more information about the Special Olympics Lehigh County, or would like to get involved in the action, please visit http://www.specialolympicslehighcounty.org/ for more information!