By Rick Palsgrove
Some Special Olympics athletes recently got a real kick out of learning about soccer.
On June 26, the Groveport Madison Cruiser varsity boys soccer team hosted its first annual summer soccer camp for Groveport Special Olympics athletes at Cruiser Stadium at Groveport Madison High School.
“Being a new head coach, I wanted to bring to our program something that would help create lifelong memories for our players and community,” said Gerald Holton, Cruiser head varsity boys soccer coach. “The boys were excited to make this happen, but a little nervous as well.”
Holton said the Cruiser soccer players helped the Special Olympics athletes work on shooting, passing, and dribbling with the ball in various stages around the field, as well as a little scrimmaging.
Though this camp was run by the boys soccer team, Holton gave a shout out to the Cruiser girls soccer team for cheering on the Special Olympians; to Eva Debessay (sophomore on the girl’s soccer team) for doing the announcements; and to girls head coach Mark Coyer for setting up the field to help make the event happen.
“I think the boys soccer team got a lot out of the camp as well and it taught them very important leadership skills,” said Holton. “This is new to many of them and they still do not understand what it means to put on that soccer uniform and have many young players look up to them. At the beginning, you could tell a lot of players were a little nervous about what they should be doing or how to interact, but, as time went on, they became more relaxed and started having fun. At the end, they told me it was a lot of fun and you could tell that the Special Olympians played with all heart. I hope this camp will be carried on as a tradition for our program and we can build on it each and every year to come.”
Holton said soccer is a good sport for the Special Olympians to play.
“Soccer is the most popular sport world wide and, like every team sport, it has value on and off the field,” said Holton. “Soccer helps with players getting physically and mentally fit. It teaches the players how to play as a team, handle frustrations, how to win with dignity, setting goals, leadership and so many of things that can benefit them in life. Just like every sports team, when you are working together toward a common goal, you become part of a family.”
Holton said the Special Olympics program is “an amazing opportunity” for it participants.
“I watched my cousin growing up who was in Special Olympics with Down Syndrome and it was such a great program for him to build his self confidence, feel part of a group, and compete in sports he loved,” said Holton. “He was one of the reasons I got involved working with people with disabilities and it taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I still use today.”
Holton thanked the Columbus Crew for having “SC” the Crew Cat come out and help make the Special Olympics soccer camp even better for everyone.
Looking ahead to the
upcoming boys soccer season
“This has been a roller coaster of a year already,” said Holton. “We lost many valuable players these last two years because of graduation and their shoes are hard to fill. I know we are going to have our struggles at the beginning of the season as some of the players learn to take ownership of their new roles, but I am confident they will continue to show the true grit of a Cruiser.”
Holton said some standouts to watch on this coming year’s Cruiser boys soccer team will be returning seniors David Lopez-Pascua, Ali Alanfagi, Abdou Diagne, Jaden Atkinson and Junior Eyobe Teferi.
About Special Olympics
The mission of Special Olympics Ohio and its Groveport Special Olympics chapter is to provide year round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic type sports for intellectually disabled individuals. For information contact local coordinators Penny and Cassandra Hilty at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (614) 395-8992 or 395-6640. Donations may be sent to Groveport Special Olympics, P.O. Box 296, Groveport, OH 43125.