Houston schools hold Special Olympics competition

wcrenshaw@macon.comJanuary 9, 2014 

KATHLEEN -- A group of basketball players at the Veterans High School gym Thursday probably don’t have a spot on the varsity squad in their future, but they are all-stars when it comes to knowing how to enjoy themselves.

The Houston County school system held its second annual Special Olympics Winter Games, featuring basketball. Students gave joyous reactions over making shots a couple of feet from a lowered basket.

About 100 students from 11 elementary schools participated Thursday. On Friday, the event continues with about 250 middle and high school students. About 30 of the top athletes from the event will go on to compete at the state level. Special Olympics is an international organization that gives youth and adults with intellectual developmental disabilities a chance to compete in sports.

Leslie Allen, Special Olympics coordinator for Houston schools, said the event is important to the participants.

“The students get not only improved motor skills and coordination, but it helps them improve social skills, and teamwork helps improve behavior and interpersonal skills,” she said.

Tamika Smith, of Bonaire, was there to watch her 9-year-old daughter, Amira, compete in the games. Amira is in the fourth grade at Bonaire Elementary.

“She’s excited about being able to be here with her peers,” Smith said.

Although she said Amira likes sports, her true love is ballet dancing.

Many of the competitors couldn’t immediately be identified as having a disability. Brenda Arnett, the school system’s adaptive physical education specialist, said the disabilities range from mild to severe.

The event began with the participants standing to recite the Special Olympics oath, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Arnett said when she teaches physical education to students with disabilities, she treats them the same as anyone else.

“A lot of times they are tougher than we are because they have so many challenges,” she said.

The elementary school students held skills competitions, including shooting, dribbling and passing. On Friday, the older students will compete in teams, and the winning teams will go on to the state competition.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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