Members of the Muhlenberg men’s and women’s basketball teams stepped onto the court last Wednesday as they have hundreds of times in their careers. This time, however, it wasn’t with the goal of defeating an opponent – it was to run a practice for their favorite sport with Special Olympics athletes from the Lehigh Valley.
This is the second year in a row that the team has participated in the event, which is held at Trexler Middle School.
“The Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) wanted to do more stuff with the Special Olympics this year,” said senior Kate Clawson, who is a committee member. “We helped them organize the Lehigh Valley Polar Bear Plunge and wanted to continue our involvement with the organization.”
The Polar Bear Plunge, held in January, benefitted Special Olympics Pennsylvania, and many of the organization’s members participated in it.
Clawson, who interned for Special Olympics in her home state of Connecticut last summer, helped plan the basketball practice, and at the same time, got to be an active participant.
The players started off by leading the Special Olympics athletes through a series of warmups. Once they were ready to go, the athletes participated in a defensive stance drill where they had to smack the floor and get into position before shuffling left and right.
Fullcourt layups (righty and lefty!) were next, followed by three different work stations.
At one station, Clawson, juniors Austin Curry and Kevin Hargrove and sophomore Hannah Rush instructed the athletes on how to defend the dribble. At another, sophomores Abby Stenger and Malique Killing and freshmen Nick Melosky and Ryan Marchetti ran the athletes through series of ballhandling and dribbling drills. At the third station, senior Julie Kelly, sophomores Nicole Pepe and Jesse Lerner and freshman Alec Stavetski helped the players shoot from different spots on the floor.
At the end of the evening, men’s assistant coach Marqus Hunter gave away Muhlenberg bracelets to the athletes who correctly answered various basketball trivia questions. But they didn’t just have to answer the questions correctly, they had to make a shot before receiving their prize!
“The best part is just getting to come hang out with these athletes” added Clawson. “It’s so nice to work with them – they’re just so happy doing the little things. It really makes you appreciate your life and what you have.
“We’re Division III basketball teams so it’s not like we are heroes to everyone, but it’s so cool that they all look up to us so much.”