by Chris Markhm, UMW student-athlete
More than 200 area Special Olympic athletes took part in a regional Special Olympics Basketball invitational at the University of Mary Washington’s Anderson Center on Sunday, Jan. 31. UMW Athletics hosted the day-long event as part of a NCAA Division III national partnership with the Special Olympics organization.
UMW’s student athletes served as referees and scorekeepers for the games, and also showed up to cheer on the teams. The Special Olympics athletes were separated into six different divisions that competed against one another in full-court and half-court games, and skills competitions comprised of shooting, dribbling and passing drills.
“The interaction between the Special Olympic athletes and UMW’s athletes is a win-win for all of us,” said Tim Doyle, the local area coordinator for the Special Olympics.
In an effort to expand its role in the national partnership with Special Olympics, UMW Athletics has held clinics with several of its sports programs. Last year, UMW Athletics partnered with the local Special Olympics chapter to raise more than $2,000 through a Polar Plunge, which helped pay for Sunday’s basketball tournament.
“One of most important components of DIII athletics is the connection with the community,” said Ken Tyler, director of athletics. “The interactions our student-athletes are having with the Special Olympics athletes are the types of relationships and life-long lessons that mean the most. We want it to be a positive and impactful experience for the athletes.”