Focusing on personal growth through sports

July 25, 2016

Many people think of Special Olympics as a one-day track and field meet for people with disabilities — but it’s so much more than that. Special Olympics is a year-round program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The successes of the program don’t just happen on the playing field. They also occur in the daily lives of our athletes. Special Olympics is more about personal growth than winning medals. Our athletes experience improved self-confidence, self-esteem and social skills, as well as increased independence. We do that through sports.

In Howard County, more than 680 athletes participate in 19 sports that are organized around three major competition seasons. In addition, we have a Motor Activities Training Program at Cedar Lane School for those athletes who cannot participate in regular sports programs. More than 110 coaches and volunteers make this happen. Special Olympics Howard County has consistently been recognized as one of the best county programs in the state.

Our athletes don’t just compete at a state level. In 2014, 35 Special Olympics athletes from Howard County were part of Team Maryland at the Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey, and in 2015 one of our athletes participated in the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.

At the Maryland Special Olympics Summer Games in June, 156 Howard County athletes competed in aquatics, athletics (track and field), bocce, softball and cheerleading.

In mid-August, training will begin for fall sports: cross country running, cycling, flag football, golf, soccer, tennis, powerlifting and volleyball, followed by bowling in October.

For the past several years, Columbia Association and its Tennis Advisory Committee has supported the Special Olympics Howard County tennis team with donations, use of facilities, volunteer recruitment and even providing warm-up uniforms. CA’s support has helped send a delegation to the Special Olympics National Invitational Tennis Tournament in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for several years. A number of the team’s tennis coaches and volunteers also play tennis in CA leagues.

There is no charge for athletes to participate. All the costs are covered by fundraisers like our annual Inspiration Walk held each April and by donations from individuals, corporations and other organizations. To become a sponsor, contact Special Olympics Howard County at info@somdhc.org or call 410-740-0500.

To volunteer for our upcoming fall season, go to somdhc.org or call 410-740-0500. All new volunteers must attend an orientation before working with our athletes. Our next volunteer orientation is scheduled for Aug. 17.

Bob Baker,
Director, Special Olympics Howard County

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