Sports are a large part of American culture and help to teach valuable life lessons such as sportsmanship through competition. Special Olympics provides opportunities for students who may not get to compete otherwise.
Junior Amanda Mayfield is participating in both flag football and basketball this year. She said her favorite part of participating in the program is seeing the students so committed to the game and having fun.
“You learn sportsmanship and get to see these kids work so hard to accomplish something people think they can’t,” Mayfield said.
The Special Olympics sports currently offered in the district include flag football, basketball, soccer, baseball, track, swimming and new this year, bocce ball, according to Mayfield.
Junior Claire Paul will participate in Unified Track this year in the spring. According to Paul, the practice schedule varies by sport, but usually includes practicing with students once or twice a week in preparation for meets or games.
“Practices are always a good time to meet new people and make friends with other students,” Paul said.
EHS hosted an all-district Special Olympics games last year that Paul had the opportunity to participate in. This event brought together students from all over the district and state for a day of sports as well as other activities such as face painting and snacks, according to Paul.
A large part of being involved is helping students to play the game and demonstrating good sportsmanship.
“Teaching the athletes how to play and helping them work on aspects such as teamwork and communication just makes it that much more fun,” senior Evan Driscoll said.
Driscoll’s favorite experience with Special Olympics so far was playing in the state basketball tournament.
“It was at the same facility as the IHSA Boys state championship and everything was high-budget,” Driscoll said. “The kids really enjoyed all the opportunities they had there. Our games were even broadcasted on a local station.”
There is a common misconception that the Special Olympics athletes are not competitive. According to Driscoll, this is far from the truth.
“Every time our teams step on the field or the court, our goal is to perform to the best of our abilities and ultimately win,” Driscoll said. “The athletes just want to be treated normally. They want to experience the thrill of winning, but they are fueled by their losses. That’s what makes Special Olympics so impactful is that it really motivates our athletes.”