By Kodey Toney
Kick A Little
Last week we got up extra early to head out to Owasso for Konner’s first ever soccer game. This was his first sporting event ever actually, this is because he’s never really been interested in sports. We’ve never really pushed him into anything he didn’t want to do because we don’t want him to be too uncomfortable. We always ask, but he usually says no.
So, when we heard about Special Olympics having soccer we asked if he was interested. I was a bit surprised at first when he said yes, but then I was a proud. He was to a point where he decided on his own that he wanted to try something new, something athletic, something social, and something that does not include electronics. This may also be because Kruz is playing this year.
I was still a little concerned a few weeks ago when we showed up for the first practice. I knew that this was the first time Konner had been out of the house for any athletic activities. Ok, he does things in P.E. class, but let’s face it, soccer is not the easiest sport to play. You have to run…a lot.
When we had arrived to the first practice I was watching closely and tried to walk out on the field the first time he got frustrated. This was when his coach Barbara Leonard told me that he is fine and that I could go sit down. I decided to let her handle it and watch from afar.
Let me stop now to explain to those who don’t know about how Special Olympics works, because I didn’t prior to this experience. The athletes, who have disabilities of some sort, work with partners who are their typically developing peers. This is such a great show of inclusion. Everyone is equal. In fact, if anything the partners are at a disadvantage because they are not allowed to dominate the games. They are there to encourage the athletes and help them do their best on the field.
With that being said, we drove to Owasso for the 12th Annual Statewide Special Olympics Oklahoma Soccer Competition Wednesday. Konner has a tendency to fall down when he gets frustrated, or tired, so him staying in the game long seemed a stretch, but he played about as much as the other kids did. When he did get in the partners and coach were on the field helping to pass the ball to him and encourage him to score.
Once he got hot and tired he told his coach that he was too tired to play and just wanted to help her coach, so he spent most of the second game on the sidelines helping Barbara.
The sportsmanship is far above anything else I’ve ever seen. During the games I saw a little boy with noise-cancelling headphones being encouraged by his peers to kick the ball into the goal. I saw a little girl holding her ears with her hands, but she was led to the goal to score. I also saw opposing teams parting like the red sea to allow children with walkers and crutches to kick the ball to the goal and score.
I can’t say enough about the girls who worked with Konner to help him be a better athlete and person. Allison Matos and Hanna Weaver were great with him. They didn’t get frustrated with him when he decided to throw himself on the ground and have a fit, or when he would wonder and whine in the hot sun. They just worked to help keep him on task and tell him how good he was doing. The same goes for Barbara and Tanna and Randy Weaver, who work so hard to lead all the athletes and keep the Special Olympics going in this area. It is a great organization.
I would encourage any parent to try to push your kids to join if they are interested. Even if you don’t think they can do it, which I was skeptical, do it anyway. Make them get out of their comfort zone. You don’t have to torture them, but any social and athletic gathering will help them.