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.
Last month, we had an article on four Muhlenberg athletes participating in a Special Olympics bowling event. Recently, the Mule basketball teams got to help out at a Special Olympics practice session. Junior Kate Clawson (who also participated in the bowling event) and sophomore Leeann Lanza wrote the following reports:
I was so excited to go to the Special Olympics basketball practice because I knew there would be many familiar faces, having just gone to a bowling event a few weeks prior. But I was just as excited to meet new athletes.
Just as I had expected, one of the friends I made there, Tarre, was super excited to see me and catch up. All of the other athletes were so happy to have us there, and you could tell on all of our faces that we were more than happy to be there too. We started off by stretching with them, then split the group into four lines and had relay races with dribbling. This was really fun for everyone because some of the Muhlenberg athletes also got to participate.
Next we split up into stations, for dribbling, passing, shooting and games. My group, which included junior Hunter Forsman and freshman AJ Dean, did passing. It was funny because some of the athletes thought passing was too easy, because some are very skilled, but we explained to them that even college athletes warm up and practice our passing.
Each group had so much fun, and the shooting group with the enthusiastic Austin Curry and Ryan Lagomarsino was definitely the loudest. It was great seeing all the athletes and teammates having fun together.
We continued this by playing 3v3 games. This was my favorite part because I got to see the athletes really in their element. Their effort, teamwork and enthusiasm were so tremendous to see. Each time one of the athletes scored, the biggest smile came across their face, and high fives were a must. I loved watching my teammate Caitlyn excel. It seemed like she couldn’t miss!
At the end we huddled together in the middle, and just like after a practice at Muhlenberg, said MULES! on the count of 3. I think it was important to bring everyone together and have that sense of community, because not only did the Special Olympics athlete learn things from us that night, but we also learned about the heart, joy and courage that the Special Olympics athletes take pride in.
Hopefully we will be a part of this experience a few more times before the semester ends!
Our trip to help out with the Lehigh Valley Special Olympics team at Trexler Elementary School was one I will never forget. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with excitement and enthusiasm by a few players who just could not wait to start playing. Both the men’s and women’s Muhlenberg basketball teams were there and ready to share everything we know about the game with players of all ages.
When we split into different stations, a few of my teammates and I, along with some of the men, taught the players some tricks about defense. Getting to help different groups of the players with defense and rebounding was so much fun because it turned into a one-on-one competition between all of us!
After our first practice with players of all ages, I had the opportunity to stay with our men’s team and scrimmage with the Special Olympics competitive men’s team (who will play in a tournament at Kutztown for the regional championship in May). This was a really fun experience for me getting to hang out with our men’s team and also getting to make some new friends. The Special Olympics organization allows these players to participate in high levels of competition while still conveying the importance of having FUN with the game!
I know that I speak for all of the Mules who got the opportunity to take part in this practice when I say that we really enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot from this experience. I think a new appreciation for basketball can be gained when playing with or even just watching some of these players. Their spirit and positive attitudes are just the motivation we need to get excited for our own season next winter. Hopefully we will all be able to get together again soon so we can cheer each other on!