As the world of sports continues to mold itself to meet the needs of athletes with disabilities, it simultaneously exposes people to the world of the Special Olympics, a competition where those with intellectual and physical disabilities can participate in all types of competitions.
Members of the Angleton High School swim team volunteered at the Special Olympics area aquatics meet in Sugar Land on Saturday, taking advantage of an opportunity to help those special athletes.
“Our team captain, Fynn Andrews, came up to us and said we should volunteer,” member Jordyn Hoskins said. “It’s been a great opportunity. I like working with people and I liked interacting with the athletes.”
Andrews, whose mother worked as a meet official, encouraged his teammates to join him as a volunteer as a team bonding experience.
“I got the idea to volunteer because my mom was signed up to officiate for a few months,” he said. “Overall, it was a good experience and it was good to see how many volunteers came out to help all over the Houston area.”
The students primarily timed races and cheered on the competitors.
“All of us are here together, and I think it makes us get a lot closer to each other,” swim team member Abel Black said. “We should do this more often because it helps us see that we’re a family.”
Jasmine Shehadeh believed the team-building exercises began before they arrived at the natatorium, she said.
“Even before we got to the meet itself, we were all messing around and having fun and also being here is really fun. It’s great working together with my team.” Shehadeh said.
Andrews believes the Special Olympics opened his eyes to the large world of athletes with disabilities and the challenges they face.
“By working with the athletes, you get to learn about them and how they feel about swimming,” Andrews said. “However, by working the swim meet, you learn about the unique challenges associated with this kind of swim meet.”
As strenuous as swimming is, the students found the special athletes did not need as much help as society sometimes portrays.
“It makes me respect them more. I know that they’re trying to work for what they want to accomplish even though it’s harder for them,” Wildcat swimmer Aaron Black said. “I appreciate all the hard work that they do. Special needs kids and adults are better off and more capable than we think.”
Even though the athletes needed assistance, member Alyssa Ryan found they were very independent.
“They aren’t how people treat them,” Ryan said. “They don’t need all the help that people think they need. They can be independent, too.”
Overall, the students learned the importance of inclusion and that all athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.
“I think it’s important for athletes who have disabilities to compete because competitions serve as a motivator just like for any athlete, and that there is a learning experience,” Andrews said.