Women's Soccer Hosts Clinic for Special Olympics
This article was written and has been provided as a
courtesy by Kate Day Sager of the Olean Times Herald. It appeared
in the printed edition of the newspaper August 23, 2010.
ST. BONAVENTURE — As each Special Olympian ran up and kicked a soccer ball into the net, their young coaches with the St. Bonaventure women's soccer team gave a resounding cheer while yelling "good job."
The soccer clinic that was offered Saturday for the Western Region of Special Olympics New York at St. Bonaventure University is hoped to be the first of many, said Special Olympics program director Shelby Baker.
The clinic was held before the women's soccer team's season opener against Bucknell University. St. Bonaventure won the game, 3-2.
During the clinic, Special Olympians received help with their passing, dribbling and shooting skills. Afterwards, the Special Olympics staff and members of the Southern Tier Premier Football Club divided the group by skill level and supervised modified scrimmages while the women's soccer team began their pre game warm-up.
"We've been fortunate to have the help of St. Bonaventure.
They've really been a huge support of our program and we've really built a good relationship," said Ms. Baker. "This is the first time for this particular event and clinic, so we're really excited."
She said the Special Olympians have a big soccer competition next month in Rochester, so the clinic is expected to help them. The 22 special athletes in attendance were from the Olean area and surrounding communities as well as the Buffalo region.
Ms. Baker said she met with the women's soccer team on Friday to run through drills that would be used with the special athletes. She said she was particularly impressed that the St. Bonaventure women would give up their time prior to their own game.
"It's really nice, especially on a game day. There are not too many universities out there that we would give their time on a game day,"
Ms. Baker said. "They've been so helpful and supportive."
St. Bonaventure soccer team member Alicia D'Alessandro, a junior at the university from Albany, said the entire team of 26 players were on hand Saturday.
"We're having a lot of fun this year already as a team," Ms.
D'Alessandro said. "We're excited about our game, but to get to do something like this to de-stress, laugh and have fun really helps us.
We're focused and know we have to play a game later, but this is great."
She said the team has participated in other activities that have included fundraisers for Cystic Fibrosis and community clean-up
Another St. Bonaventure soccer team member, Helen Ventura of Olean, said she and the other girls were "very excited" about the clinic.
"The community really supports us, so it's nice to be able to work with (Special Olympics) soccer players," Ms. Ventura said.
St. Bonaventure soccer team head coach Manoj Khettry said the players on his team readily agreed to do the clinic.
"I think you have to continue to do things where your players are involved in the community and helping others," Mr. Khettry said.
"I'm watching them, and they're having fun.
"Someone once told me that the people who are the happiest in the world are the ones who do things for others," he added.
Dr. Paula Scraba, associate professor of physical education at St.
Bonaventure, said the university has been working with New York Special Olympics for the past several years.
"The head CEO and president, Neil Johnson, is a Bona alum ... he approached us about three years ago" after Special Olympics was divided into several regions in New York, Dr. Scraba said. She said the university also has sponsored a coaches' training clinic for track and field, and has hosted a Special Olympics volleyball team.
"This year we'll do a coaches training clinic in soccer that will be open to the public," Dr. Scraba added.
One of the Special Olympians attending the event was Dani Bartlett of Olean.
Dani said she has played soccer for a couple of years, and also played on the volleyball team at St. Bonaventure.
"My team won the volleyball game," Dani said with a smile.
A parent at the event was Lisa Barone of Buffalo. Her 8-year-old son, Sammy, was one of the younger Special Olympians at the clinic.
"They've been practicing to come and compete. It's nice that the girls (on the soccer team) know what they're doing and can help them out," Ms. Barone said.
Another parent, Deb Rebstock of Buffalo, said she was happy to see her 8-year-old daughter, Emily, interact with other people.
"They see that they can do stuff as a group," Ms. Rebstock said.
Parent Renee Filip, also of Buffalo, said her son, Marshal, was having a lot of fun with the soccer coaches.
"The soccer team members were good models for him and they are so
engaged in all of this," Ms. Filip said.
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at email@example.com)