Special Olympics athletes use basketball to stay active, connected during pandemic

The winter basketball clinic has virtual and in-person options with COVID-19 safety protocols in place

The push to the Special Olympics' Polar Plunge is underway.

ROANOKE, Va. – The push to the 2021 Polar Plunge is on, as teams across Virginia are coming up with their own unique ways to plunge in support of Special Olympics Virginia.

Special Olympics athletes are also coming up with their own ways to stay connected and active even though the pandemic has made that harder.

Tim Cross and Matt Hall, both athletes with Special Olympics, teamed up to organize and lead a winter basketball clinic to keep fellow Special Olympics athletes active and engaged during the pandemic.

When asked why he wanted to help put together a basketball clinic, Cross said he wanted athletes to be able to, “Get healthy and exercise a little bit more and get our basketball shots a little bit better.”

Hall said, “It will help us get ready for next year and help improve everybody’s health.”

The clinic has virtual and in-person elements, with COVID-19 safety protocols, that challenge athletes through different basketball drills, including dribbling, lay-up, free throw and passing drills.

“How many minutes can you dribble a ball with one hand. How many lay-ups you can make in one minute,” Hall said, describing the drills.

It is an activity that has inspired them and helped to keep athletes connected, but it may also inspire others.

“Hopefully we’re getting other people saying, ‘You know what, let’s be active.’ Let’s not let the cold or COVID or whatever excuse we come up with be what holds us back,” said Aaron Hall, who is Matt’s brother and also helped with the basketball clinic.

Cross and Matt Hall are also a part of the No Bounds program at ECPI University’s Roanoke Campus. The program aims to provide independence for people with intellectual disabilities through education, training and fitness.

Dr. Tina Bhandari, founder and director of the No Bounds program, said it is amazing to see what Cross, Hall and other students have accomplished through No Bounds and Special Olympics.

“It was fabulous to see these guys saying ‘We want to do something,’ Bhandari said. “It was, to me, that’s what I’m looking for, that independent way of thinking.”

They all encourage people to support Special Olympics because of the impact it has in the lives of athletes and volunteers.

“We have our day-to-day lives and we think things are so difficult, but for these people a lot of things are difficult,” Aaron Hall said. “This time, Special Olympics, is their time to shine.”

To donate and support Special Olympics Virginia through the Polar Plunge, click here.

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