Last Saturday, Special Olympics New York – New York City hosted a Regional Softball Tournament on Randall’s Island. While there, athletes competed on softball teams or in individual skills. Both types of softball were really exciting to watch, and as always, the athletes didn’t disappoint. They were so happy to be there. One of the softball skills athletes even told me, “Smiling is my favorite sport,” which of course made me smile. That athlete then proceeded to win gold in his division, and his smile was huge. He won in softball skills and at his favorite sport, smiling.
It was a really fun day for the athletes, staff, volunteers, and referees. It was beautiful outside, and everyone was happy to be outside on such a nice day. The day began with the athletes warming up, volunteers arriving, and the Parade of Athletes, which is always my favorite part. Volunteers formed two lines, and athletes from every team and borough run in the middle and high five or hug every volunteer. An athlete even stuck his arms out, so he could high five both sides of volunteers. It really built the excitement for the volunteers and the athletes.
Laura Behnke, a sports anchor at WABC, was the MC of the event. She welcomed everyone there, and then the two selected athletes ran in with the torch. They were from the Manhattan Wildcats because Manhattan was hosting the tournament. By this time, we were all so excited for the games to start, but first, an athlete had to lead everyone in the Athletes’ Oath. Everyone, including the volunteers, repeated “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” And with that, it was time for the day to begin!
I traveled around the fields taking photos throughout the day. I had never been that close to a softball game, so it was a very cool and new experience for me. At first, I was worried that I would mess the players up if I was on the field taking photos, but one of the coaches told me the athletes loved it. I’m really glad that I watched part of the Little League World Series this summer because I was able to understand more of what was happening.
This was my first time really watching Special Olympics teams interact, and I loved it. The teams were true teams; they were all in it together. If someone struck out and was upset, at least two of his or her teammates came over and helped that person feel better. They knew, unlike most sports teams, that one of the goals was to win but the other goal was to be teamplayers.
The skills portion of the tournament happened at the same time as the softball games, and I really enjoyed watching it. Some athletes who competed in skills came with teams, and some didn’t. Athletes competed in hitting, fielding, throwing, and base running. The goal of skills is to include athletes who are still learning the type of skills needed to play on a team.
After the skills were over, it was time for the Awards Ceremony! This was one of my favorite parts of the day because no matter what medal the athletes won, they were still so excited and proud of themselves.
Here are some of the photos of athletes celebrating their medals in style: