I have to admit, as the PR Assistant for Team Missouri, I had some ideas on what to expect for the State Indoor Games March 16-17 in St. Joseph.
For instance, I knew what I’d be filming, what shots to take during basketball and bowling, who to interview and the generic responses to our usual questions. I didn’t know I was out of my league, no pun intended. There were some responses that touched my heart.
I asked questions to athletes, coaches, Unified Partners (including a handful of those on Team Missouri attending the 2018 USA Games in Seattle later this summer), volunteers and even a parent or two. I enjoyed talking to all of them. They all surprised me at how uniquely they responded. It not only made my heart skip a beat, but also made me proud as an athlete and a representative for Missouri.
One of the things I’ve learned about myself, several years ago, is that I love to learn, no matter the topic, subject or issue. My fellow athletes never disappoint in teaching me something new – whether it’s about their sport or something entirely different. Eight bowlers and ten basketball players, Unified Partners included, are going to Seattle to compete this summer in the 2018 USA Games.
Two of the bowlers on Team Missouri, Brandon Mynatt and Jeremiah Ellis, each won gold in their division at State Indoor Games; they worked hard for it too.
“Go slow, and focus on the pins,” Mynatt said.
Ellis said, “Watch for the other lanes first, then stretching, then try bowling straight,”
Thanks for the advice, Team Missouri athletes!
I even managed to interview the coach of the Team Missouri basketball squad, Kris Clark. He said the team does practice as much as it can, but scheduling is difficult.
“Competitions are definitely the best practice time for us,” Clark said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ll get there for sure.”
Mynatt and Ellis both took home gold in their respective divisions and the Team Missouri basketball squad also took home first place.
Athletes prove to everyone that they can achieve anything with hard work and determination. The one thing I’ve noticed in my fellow athletes is their drive to achieve whatever they put their mind to, even when they don’t win the medal they hoped to.
As Tyler Hannegan, a basketball athlete for six years, said, “I didn’t make (Team Missouri), but I’m gonna try again in another four years.”
Chris Mounts plays basketball for Jefferson City and his team won the bronze medal at State Indoor Games. While he and his team wanted gold, he still held his head high following the game.
“Sometimes we lose,” Mounts said. “We’ll do better next time.”
Nothing is impossible, fellow athletes. Don’t give up just yet. Keep that hope and faith, and also don’t forget to listen to your coaches. They help improve your skills.
The coaches and parents are always so proud of us athletes. When I attended the basketball venues, I made certain to talk to the coaches and parents. I’ve learned they love to talk, especially when their child is competing.
I did find two things in common, in fact: whether they won or lost either of the two games, everyone had fun and played their hardest. Coach Jim Rash of the Trenton basketball team provided great feedback on this.
“We were playing against boys all day long,” he said, “We have two girls on our team, but they fought hard. They played the best two games they ever played, so I can’t complain.”
I think one of my favorite moments, which I can’t remember if I captured it on camera or not, was during a basketball game.
An athlete fell to the ground after a play. The referees blew the play dead. The timer stopped.
After that, though, an athlete of the opposing team stood close, held out a hand, and helped him stand. I love sportsmanship, no matter what organization or sport it is.
Any good non-profit needs volunteers to keep it running. That’s why we’re always asking and always looking for help at our competitions across the state. The number of volunteers increases every year for Special Olympics Missouri. The awareness it brings to our intellectual disabilities is a plus.
“(Some) don’t really need help,” said Duane Richardson, a first-time volunteer. “They’re self-sufficient. They’re able to do what they need to do. Only thing I need to do is occasionally reset the lane when we have a malfunction. Everything else they’re completely capable of doing everything on their own.”
I did see quite a few athletes on Saturday who needed the steel ramp to aim and bowl. They needed a volunteer to help move it. Even then, their confidence is still high, being supported by the volunteer.
I am sometimes surprised when I come across a volunteer who is helping out for the first time, such as Ariel Hall, a sophomore track and field athlete. I asked why she chose Special Olympics and specifically why this event.
“For Benton (High School) Track, we were deciding to do more with the community, so we decided to help Special Olympics,” Hall said. “It’s been really fun. The people are really nice and they’re really good at bowling.”
I imagine she and her friends learned something new that day and vice versa with the athletes she met.
Games Management Team
Like I said before, I love to learn, and when I learn something, I want to pass that knowledge to even more people. To put on a state competition, key volunteers and staff members work together as a Games Management Team. For months leading up to the event, they plan every detail.
When asking Lindsey Bernard, chairwoman of the State Indoor Games GMT, I realized the team did so much to ensure the event was successful.
“We have a committee of about thirty people that work to make sure that we’re prepared for the Games to come to St. Joseph: Sponsorships, work with facilities, hotels, meals… everyone works to make sure that once the athletes arrive, we’re ready to go.”
Every State Games is a huge boost to its hosting city’s economy.
“We wanted the State Indoor Games to come back to St. Joseph because it’s a huge impact on our city; it’s almost $1 million for a one-year event.”
Athletes may pay a fee to attend State Games, but there are a lot of costs that SOMO pays to put on the Games. They pay for our hotel rooms, our lunches, entertainment, events and even the gas for their vehicles. To know all of this now makes me feel even more appreciative and grateful for the organization.
Last but not least, we have the parents. Yes, Special Olympics needs staff, volunteers, athletes and hosts to function, but the parents are the cheerleaders we need. In return, the athletes teach their parents about the important things. Special Olympics would not be so well-known, without caring parents.
When it comes to parents, they love to brag and embarrass their children – my own mother included.
I asked Dale Kriete, father of basketball athlete Deanne Kriete, if she has changed since she joined SOMO. He said, “Oh yeah, she’s more outgoing now than she ever was. It’s a good thing for her.” As a result of her involvement in Special Olympics, her social skills have improved.
What fascinates me is the bond between the athletes and their parents.
“She teaches me how to be a good sport like she is,” Kriete said. “I always enjoy coming to the games and everything. It’s kind of a thing between me and my daughter to do. It’s always enjoyable.”