I’ve been volunteering with the Special Olympics skills level athletes in various sports, including golf. In skills level golf, the athletes are working on short and long putting, chipping, pitching and driving (wood and iron). Games are centered on each of these areas, with players earning points for hitting the ball, distance, sinking the put and so on. Teams (or rather divisions) are built based upon each individual player’s skill level. During the Area games, the player from each division that places first gets to move on to the State Championship games in Orlando, FL.
Recently I attended the Broward County Skills Golf Tournament and the Area 10 Competition (which is comprised of 8 counties in southeast Florida). The games are always fun because you get to meet new athletes and have a chance to just watch them put their heart and soul into the game. It’s sport at its purest form – athletes giving it their all with a strong desire to win, yet at the same time cheering for their competition and not being discouraged by bad shots.
During the county golf competition, one of the athletes told me that he really wanted to win the blue ribbon so he could go on to state. He just knew that everyone competing would win a blue ribbon because they are all trying their best. He likes playing golf because it gets him out of the house and gives him something to look forward to. Although he really wanted to win, he enjoyed just being outside with friends and being able to play a sport he liked.
What I’ve enjoyed most about volunteering are the people I’ve met. The athletes are fun, interesting, caring and kind. They’re always excited to see you again. Special Olympics is more than just sports. It is friendship, empowerment and growth for these athletes. It is a place where they can learn social and leadership skills as well as life lessons. There are many ways you can contribute – whether short term or long term. Volunteers are always needed in coaching, scorekeeping, playing on a unified team, officiating games, mentoring future leaders, or simply showing up and cheering for the athletes as they participate in the games. The athletes I’ve met have made a positive impact in my life and I look forward to seeing them every week!