Special Olympics hosts 330 athletes
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 03:03
Instead of hosting the usual indoor track competitions, the Delaware Field House was the home of the 35th annual Special Olympics Delaware Basketball Skills Competition, an event that promotes healthy exercise for children with intellectual disabilities.
More than 330 athletes participated in Thursday's event, hosted by Special Olympics Delaware, which allows players to compete in a tournament format, and earn rewards and points for participating.
Jeffrey Dietz, an 11-year-old athlete from New Castle County, helped start the skills competition on Thursday by carrying the traditional torch across the stadium during the opening ceremonies. Dietz said he was happy he could have a significant role in the event.
"It was awesome," Dietz said. "It was an honor to me, I got to wave to everyone and my grandmother even came to watch."
Dietz said the competition included shooting, dribbling, passing, spot shots and target passes. He said his favorite basketball activity is "spot shot," a game that challenges athletes to shoot baskets from a certain spot on the court.
Dietz's coach Kathy Schrim, a New Castle County resident and university alumna, has volunteered with Special Olympics Delaware for more than 11 years. She was among approximately 100 volunteers involved in the competition.
When it comes to coaching, Schrim said she doesn't pressure athletes to win, but just to enjoy themselves and give their best effort.
"I give all of my athletes the same advice—do your best and have fun," Schrim said.
Coaches like Schrim help their athletes practice at least once a week for eight weeks prior to a competition, but Jon Buzby, a Special Olympics Delaware spokesman, said most athletes choose to practice more than that.
Schrim is also an active instructor in the Peer Partners Program, which pairs students without intellectual disabilities to Special Olympics athletes of the same age so peers can demonstrate the skills during preparation and the actual event. This year, there were approximately 100 peer partners involved at the event, Schrim said.
Schrim said she thinks the athletes' reactions to winning awards is a rewarding part of the Olympics and that the peer partners are also rewarded from participation.
"I really like seeing the kid's faces when they win the awards, but I also really enjoy watching the peers get a lot out of it too," she said.
Special Olympics Delaware recognizes every participant with a reward and offers competition in several different divisions, based on age and ability. Athletes are awarded with medals or ribbons based on the final score calculated by the individual skills events, Buzby said.
He said this is a special time of year for the athletes.
"These events are their state championship—their March Madness—their opportunity to show off their basketball talents," Buzby said. "Whether it's competing in a skills event or on a full-court team, our athletes look forward to shining in the moment."
Nursing Professor Carolee Polek volunteered at Thursday's event and brought a dozen university students with her. During the event, they helped take measurements of participants' weight and vital signs throughout the day.
"I think it's important for the students to be here and to see that sometimes there will be challenges," Polek said. "The importance is to be patient, and sometimes they will have to make accommodations in order to get these measurements."
She has been involved with Special Olympics Delaware for eight years, and said she returns each year because of the people and the atmosphere.
"The athletes and their families keep me coming back. They are all so remarkable and supportive," Polek said. "To watch the athletes be challenged and excel, it is euphoric."