BLACKSBURG, Va. – Special Olympics athlete Melinda Andrews’ favorite part about basketball is — “Trying to get the ball from the other team to win,” she said.
Melinda is one of the dozens of athletes who competed in the regional basketball tournament at Cassell Coliseum Sunday.
Nancy Morehouse is the director of the southwest section of Special Olympics Virginia and says the tournament focused on unified teams.
“Unified sports means that approximate equal numbers of people with and without disabilities play on teams together,” Morehouse said.
They want to make everyone feel included, regardless of ability.
“Their life growing up in school or maybe even doing sports at their school that they did not always feel meaningfully included,” Morehouse said.
Morehouse says that Virginia Tech worked to make the day inclusive and special for all athletes.
“Just seeing the excitement when they first take the court,” she said. “And, you know, I just walked in a little while ago and I realized HokieVision’s there, and they’ve got live cameras. And our athletes just feel so confident and so proud to be a part of this community.”
Each team had their own cheering section made up of volunteers.
“At other places around the state. We’re in a single gym with just the two teams and the parents. But this way we actually get a home team crowd for every team,” Morehouse said.
Morehouse says events like this help boost confidence for athletes and volunteers alike.
“Our athletes and our partners equally, that they develop a great deal of confidence about and sense of self,” she said. “Based on the fact that they are doing something that is part of something bigger than just what they would be doing on a day-to-day basis at their job or in their school.”
As for the athletes, like Steve Motley, they are focused on the game.
“I came to Special Olympics to have a good time with my friends,” Motley said. “And I hope we’re gonna win tonight. I’ve been ready. I was ready yesterday.”
WSLS is happy to partner with the NRV Polar Plunge. Our team includes Brittny McGraw, Jeff Haniewich, and more familiar faces.
Proceeds from the Polar Plunge go to Special Olympics Virginia.