We are in the midst of March Madness but a lesser known craze goes on at the same point this year. Basketball is still a part of it but its played a little differently. Winning is still important but it isn’t everything. Fouls, traveling, and double dribbling are all optional in their game. I am referring to that of Special Olympics. I have been apart of Special Olympics for over 5 years. It is one of my favorite events of the year.
I have been involved in everything from track and field, bowling, and basketball. It has been a fantastic experience and I have made an impact and been impacted by so many individuals. My favorite experience has been that of coaching a basketball team. I am a very competitive person but this team had no real chance of competing. We had two main goals and that was to have fun and to maybe get a bit better on the way. There are two stories that show the development and excitement of Special Olympics and why I love it.
We were playing one of our first games of the year and we have a man named Joe our team who always found himself on the wrong side of the court. Normally I have to yell at him on every possession to go on defense and then back on offense. While we were down there playing Joe took off on a dead sprint and I was excited to see him actually going in the right direction. He actually beat the ball down on offense, which was a rarity. Then he took a 90-degree right turn and continued his sprint but this time it was into the bathroom. I stood there frozen and had no idea what to do but laugh. I had to call a time out and gather our team and put in a sub to take his place. My team heads back out on the court and starts playing. A couple minutes have gone by and I started to worry about how things were going in the bathroom. Then like Joe hadn’t missed a beat, he sprints back onto the court, arms pumping at full speed, and heads back onto defense. Now I have to start sprinting after him because we already have five guys on the court. I finally get him off the court and pull him aside and ask him if everything is okay. He just smiles back and says, “Yup, just had to pee.” There is nothing you can do but laugh and try to explain to him that he needs to tell you when he has to go to the bathroom.
Later in the season, Joe had yet to touch the ball on offense so we decided to set up a play for him to at least get him the ball once. I had no expectation that he would actually get the ball let alone be able to do anything with it. We get the guy in position on offense and clear the rest of our team to the other side of the court in hopes that the defense would follow, which they did. Our guard brings the ball down and he made a perfectly, soft pass. For the first time this year, this man actually caught the ball. I was beyond ecstatic. This was a huge accomplishment for him! Then Joe turned around and faced the basket. He held the ball with two hands and brought it behind his head as if he was getting ready to throw the ball as hard as he could at the rim. That is exactly what happened and it skimmed the front of the rim and went well above the backboard and at this point I began to think that the ball has a chance of actually going in. Then it landed on the rim and bounced in. I have never jumped so high in my life and never felt a rush of pure joy. For that moment, when he lifted his arms above his head and ran all the way down the court it seemed as if time stood still and we had a reason to celebrate something so small, yet something that meant so much.
In conclusion, the reason that I am telling you these stories is if you are looking for an opportunity where you can help change someone’s life and get yours changed as well. You need to go out and volunteer for Special Olympics. They are always looking for volunteers to either coach or help. Being knowledgeable isn’t of that much importance but being willing to spend time with these individuals is what matters. Just find a way to get involved with Special Olympics and support individuals like Joe.