By Danita Boonchaisri
CHESAPEAKE BEACH, Md. (March 5, 2008) On a typical Saturday night at the Northeast Community Center in Chesapeake Beach, seven teenagers swarm a 62 man trying his best to keep them from taking away his basketball. There is good man-to-man coverage, there is blocking and screening and there is, of course, good-natured trash talk, requisite for any basketball game.
It is just a typical Saturday night practice for the Calvert County Special Olympics basketball team, a coed group of about 60 athletes who range in age from 8 to 45.
The countys seven teams are divided by age and ability. The younger teams, with ages ranging from 8 to 16, take the courts for practice first; the older athletes range from 16 to 45 and are impressive in their skills with one young man making five three-pointers in a row.
The teams have been practicing hard all winter to prepare for the day-long Special Olympics basketball tournament to be held at Huntingtown High School on Saturday, March 8, from 8:30 to 4:00. The teams will then go on to the statewide showdown to be held at the Capital Sports Complex on March 15th.
Like all sports enthusiasts, these athletes share camaraderie, sportsmanship, skills training exercises and a sense of pride for a game well-played. And, while they work with the added challenge of having intellectual disabilities, some with physical disabilities as well, their dedication and passion for the sport rival that of any seasoned athlete.
For Special Olympians, the athlete oath speaks volumes: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. Its an impressive aspiration and a fine example of sportsmanship for us all.
Special Olympics chapters around the world have helped more than 2.5 million people with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. The Calvert County chapter offers training and competitive opportunities in aquatics, bowling, floor hockey, softball, soccer and track & field, in addition to basketball. Many athletes participate in more than one sport and they, like most young athletes, find their time on the court, in the pool, at the bowling alley or on the field to be the highlight of the week.
For this week though, the focus is on basketball and the Calvert County teams plan to represent their region well in a day of play that will send them on to the state tournament. If the practice is any indication on this typical Saturday night, there are more than a few hopefuls.
For more information on the March 8 basketball tournament, or the services provided by Calvert County Special Olympics, visit online at www.somdcalvert.org, e-mail Ann Harmon at anne (at) somdcalvert.org or call 410-535-2857. The tournament is free for spectators, and all are welcomed to join the festivities.