Cheers, competitive spirit and excitement filled the air of the gymnasium at Motlow State Community College on Friday, when several local teams participated in the Area 13 Special Olympics basketball event.
Area 13 serves Coffee, Bedford, Franklin, Lincoln and Moore counties.
Skills Development Services (SDS) of Tullahoma, a nonprofit providing assistance to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, was one of the organizations that took part in Friday’s games.
“Today (Friday) we are having the Special Olympics basketball event for Area 13,” SDS Executive Director Tina Jones said. “Skills Development has two teams here today – a Tullahoma team and a Fayetteville team. The participants have worked really hard, and they raised money for their uniforms. They look great and they are playing great.”
Clients of New Life, a nonprofit agency serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Franklin County, also participated in the competition.
“Everybody is having a really good time,” Jones said.
Four games were played on Friday. Nearly 40 athletes, forming three teams, took part in the tournament.
The preparation for the competition started about a year ago, and the participants have been looking forward to the games, said Jones.
“They have been practicing since last year’s tournament,” Jones said.
The clients of SDS of Tullahoma have been training regularly.
“They practice at least once a week, every week, at C.D. Stamps Community Center,” Jones said.
The clients of SDS who didn’t take part in the competition supported their friends from the bleaches.
“They have been making signs, pompoms and banners all week,” Jones said. “Everyone gets excited – even if they are not playing, they are out there cheering. Everybody has a blast.”
The next step is going to the regional competition.
One team will be formed of athletes who competed on Friday, and that team will compete on regional level.
“They will go to the regional tournament in Nashville and, then, to the state tournament, which is also in Nashville,” Jones said.
The regional event is set for March 9, and the state tournament games are set for March 15 and 16, said Jones.
Amelia Majors, administrator of the SDS of Tullahoma, enjoyed watching the friendly competition.
“The participants are so excited,” Majors said. “They are very competitive … they want to participate and do well. It is fun to see them participating. The parents come, too, and everybody is having a good time. They are just showing off their skills. They love it.”
“It feels awesome”
David Hicks, 25, was excited to play in the basketball event. Hicks is a client of SDS of Tullahoma.
“It feels awesome,” Hicks said. “I have participated in the basketball Special Olympics since I was 18. It’s fun – you get to hang out with other people and meet new friends.”
Even though they didn’t have a team, clients and employees of Skills Development Services of Shelbyville also attended the games to support the athletes.
About Special Olympics
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide sports training and competition chances in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
The events provide to participants continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, experience joy and participate in sharing of skills and friendship with other contestants.
There are about 200 million people with intellectual disabilities around the world. The goal of Special Olympics is to reach out to each of them.
Elena Cawley may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.