News Article Details

Special Olympics tests new sports

Richmond County Daily Journal - 4/19/2019

April 18-- Apr. 18--ROCKINGHAM -- More than 100 Special Olympics athletes got the chance to show off their basketball and cheerleading chops Wednesday as the organizers for the Spring Games consider adding the sports to their annual event.

The athletes ran basic drills and learned some fundamental cheers in a clinic run by RSHS's varsity basketball teams and cheerleading squad.

"I'm already in the Chicago Bulls!" shouted Justyce Stevenson after a dazzling display of ball handling skill.

Theressa Smith, the organizer for the Olympics, said at the halfway point of the clinic that given enough interest from athletes and coaches, the only thing standing between the sports being added to their Spring Games is funding. Smith said last month that funding has been a concern since she took her role, especially when it came to adding more sports.

They were able to hold the clinic Wednesday thanks to grant funding and volunteers from von Drehl and Big Rock Sports. The events currently included in the Spring Games are bocce ball, bowling and athletics which includes running and walking, jumping and throwing.

The athletes split up into their desired sport and dribbled back and forth, took shots from their comfortable range, practiced different kinds of passes and worked on coordinating cheer moves with their classmates. They also got the chance to see the men and women's varsity basketball players play a scrimmage, which quickly turned into a dunk and 3-point shooting contest with players trying to give the crowd a treat.

Caleb Hood, who plays shooting guard and power forward, said the scrimmage let the athletes see what the Raiders look like in action, which they don't often get to experience. He said was surprised at the skill some of the athletes had.

Asked what he thought about getting to play with the Raiders, Taylor Smith-Edwards' eyes got big: "It's totally bodacious!" But it's not like he needed coaching -- he said he's been dribbling for years since playing on his team "The Flames".

Smith-Edwards added that, in addition to basketball, he'd like to see swimming added to the Spring Games.

Dorothy Hall, Smith-Edwards' teacher at Fairview Heights Elementary School, said playing sports is good for the athletes' self-esteem.

"It shows that they're capable of anything," Hall said. "The more they get to be around everyone else the more they feel the same."

In the cheerleading clinic, River Bruce said her favorite thing they learned was how to do the cheer that goes "foot on the gas, lean back and let the Raiders pass" because they get to jump and clap at the end. Bruce said she hopes she gets to do cheerleading "year after year after year after year ..."

Assistant Basketball Coach Frank Harrington said he thinks adding basketball to the Special Olympics would allow the athletes to continue the good times they had Wednesday.

"A lot of them love what they're doing," Harrington said. "You never know what kids can do until you give them a chance."

Head Football Coach Bryan Till also gave the athletes some pointers on staying healthy and active. He encouraged them to try to get 30 minutes of physical activity a day and to make their plates as "colorful as possible" to make sure they're getting a good mix of fruits and vegetables.

Dawn Grooms, who won two gold medals at the 2018 Special Olympics USA games in Seattle last summer, originally approached Smith with the idea to offer basketball, which Grooms played often in her backyard when she was in high school and felt that other athletes would enjoy playing it too.

"I would love to see (basketball) added!" Grooms said.

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]


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