News Article Details

Special Olympic partnership 'next step' for local sports

Daily Herald - 4/4/2019

April 03-- Apr. 3--SPRING HILL -- The city is looking to better develop its local sports communities, including an agreement with Special Olympics Williamson County to create more inclusive sports opportunities for youth.

The Spring Hill Sports Association (SHSA), also known as the Spring Hill Hawks, is the city's main provider of youth sports. The Special Olympics Williamson partnership offers sport-specific training for children with intellectual disabilities in ways they wouldn't normally have had the chance. The goal is to develop physical fitness, as well as the experiencing the joy of being part of a team, according to a press release.

Later this year, the groups plan to host a soccer clinic and a flag football skills camp. There are also plans to offer Unified Sports, a program that pairs special needs athletes with partners (individuals without disabilities) to compete in team sports together.

In two weeks, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will vote on two SHSA-related resolution items at its April regular meeting. One is to recognize the nonprofit as the city's official provider of sports, and the other an agreement to use the fields at Port Royal Park.

At the BOMA's work session Monday, Alderman Jeff Graves, who also chairs the city's Parks and Recreation Commission, said the first resolution is to create a stronger partnership between the SHSA and the city. The benefits, he said, could mean things like more grant funding opportunities.

"Hopefully, we'll provide a structure that as the city grows, and as our Parks and Recreation program grows, provides an organization that's structured to continue to run quality youth sports within the city," Graves said. "Also, it'll also us to have some public-private partnership dollars come in as we develop some of our land that we have dedicated for parks specifically."

Graves added that the Williamson-SHSA partnership for special needs athletes will be a big step forward for everyone, because as far as he knows no other city has a similar agreement established. By having the BOMA's support through an official resolution, it'll only make the partnership stronger, he said.

"This will give us an opportunity to support this partnership ... that will be able to offer camps and clinics for special needs athletes within the city, as well as unified leagues," Graves said. "It's something I don't believe any other city, that I know of, has a partnership in helping to promote that. I'm excited about this."

Although, Graves added that SHSA's structure as an entity isn't necessarily "new," as it shares similarities with other organizations like Brentwood's Civitan Club or Hendersonville's youth athletics program. Having it officially recognized by the city would add a new level of legitimacy.

SHSA President Paul Downing, who also chairs the Spring Hill Municipal Planning Commission, could not attend Monday's meeting, but did submit comments to be shared with the BOMA. He said the association is currently trying to reorganize its structure, which includes creating new leadership roles available to Spring Hill citizens. There will also be an executive board with a director and vice president representing each sport.

"The Spring Hill Sports Association is seeking recognition from the City of Spring Hill as an entity that is developing opportunities for growth and stability with respect to youth sports," Downing said. "The vision of the SHSA is to offer these sports opportunities as a service to our community, which in the future could be converted into a City of Spring Hill-led organization, if the city so desired."

Alderman Amy Wurth called the resolution for the BOMA to recognize the SHSA "the next step" in helping the city's local sports organization grow.

"I think it's needed in Spring Hill, having a youth program that's not just football, but multiple sports, and having the partnership with Special Olympics," Wurth said. "It's just a great start, and I appreciate Alderman Graves for all his hard work, and certainly Mr. Paul Downing. This is a great step forward for the city."

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