Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Be brave in the attempt

“This is serious business. This isn't just cute. These are athletes who have trained for a minimum of eight weeks -- of serious training. Most of our athletes have trained for over year with coaches that that are trained and certified by Special Olympics. Our athletes are serious athletes who show the world they can.” ~ Margaret Larsen

5am in Kim's driveway wondering what I was thinking!
Monday I spent my day volunteering at the National Special Olympics in Lincoln. When my alarm went off at 4:15am I admit I was thinking to myself...really Jennifer? Why are you doing this again?  The closer I got to Lincoln the more nervous I got. I had signed up to be an athlete escort for track and field. As we got our instructions that morning, I was really starting to wonder what I had signed up for and maybe I should have taken more of a paperwork-y position.

The instructions went a bit like this:
You have signed up for one of the most demanding yet rewarding positions here at the games (Yikes?!). As the athletes come in someone will check them in. They will then be escorted to your rows. Each of you will stand at a row which is a heat for the events. Once the athletes are placed in their heat, your row, you are responsible for keeping them there, keeping them excited and engaged, when your heat is full, you will then escort your row (about 6 athletes) out to their event, gather and hold their belongings, and then after the event is finished escort your heat to the coaches area for pick up. It is important to remember that some athletes may not follow verbal directions. Once placed in your row, these athletes are your responsibility. Have fun!

Well after those instructions I was honestly thinking uh oh...hope I can do this. I cannot say I have much for experience in working with adolescents or adults with disabilities. So many thoughts and questions were running around my little mind like "How will I ever keep track of 6 athletes at a time? Am I going to be able to do this?? I don't think I can do this. What was I thinking?! Oh Jennifer!

After one trip to the mini Jav and one trip over to the shot put, I hit my groove and all the nerves and self doubt had washed away.

I had one group of 6 men in the 30+ age division for shot put that I had escorted out to the track and then shot put was running behind so we were out there for an extended period of time....Oh my goodness were we ALIVE! This particular group of guys was great...
Charles was out to make friends with everyone! He was a talker and a bit of a comedian! At one point he looked at me and yelled "WATCH OUT!" I was like "what?!"  He said "an alligator's gonna eat your toe. Ah I'm just kiddin'"  He was a cheering fool for Iowa, so he liked to fill the waiting period finding other events to watch and cheer for (whoa Charles come back!) He also started a lot of "RAISE THE ROOF" action in our group! I tell you what he was sucking every ounce of fun out of this experience!

David. David was the first athlete that I saw that really hit home about why the Special Olympics is so important. David at least with me, didn't use any language except, "yeah." He answered all questions with "yeah" and he showed very little affect (even with Charles in our group!).  BUT, but when David pushed (Rodney explained to me that you don't throw the shot put, that's bad, you push it) the shot put, his face was full of concentration and determination and when he was done he threw his arms in the air and smiled and said "YEAH!" It was just awesome. There isn't a better word for it!

Two guys from Missouri and they had a cheer (that was pretty clever I must say as Ashton from Lousiana had to clue me in!) They also informed me that it was Missouri's day to shine! They were both all about the competition, but the moment that Keith didn't have good throw and turned around disappointed and muttering "damn it" they were the first 2 up and telling him how if he tries his hardest it's okay and to keep trying for next time and to keep his chin up......

There was one girl who was in the heat that I had for the 200m that was so nervous. She stretched her legs, jumped in place, held her stomach, man she was nervous, but focused. She did not want to chit chat she had her game face on. When that gun went off, she was like a bullet, 1st place in the heat! When I met her at the finish line she threw her arms around my neck and said "I did it! Oh my God I did it. That was awesome!" She was right!
side note here....when you took a heat to do a race like the 200m (which is like 1/2 the track almost~like a 40 second race) you put their lane number on their uniform, double checked lane assignments and made sure everyone was in the right place and THEN you had to make sure you were at the finish of the race to meet them and take them back to their coaches (if you haven't connected it yet, that meant I too had about 40 seconds to make it across the track! ~whew~workout!)

Oh we discussed everything from Louisiana to Iowa to Nebraska's weather (did you know you can goggle tornado sirens in Nebraska and hear them...yup you can on youtube according to Jason from Massachusetts, who could tell you everything you wanted to know about Nebraska weather because he googled it) to karaoke, to girls, to weight loss to ..............
By the end of the day I wasn't wondering any more,
why had I signed up for this;
I was wishing I had signed up for the whole week!

Click this link to watch one girl's story and then you can also browse the other videos and pictures so far! In fact it is only Wednesday I challenge you to take a day, an afternoon, a hour and go there! Pick any sport gymanstics, swimming, baseball, soccer, tennis......just go! I promise you won't want to leave!

"A rewarding life is filled with challenge: the effort creates fires that temper us and strengthen our spirit. So do not feel pity for me….Give me a chance! " ~Thomas Gatu, Special Olympics Kenya athlete

1 comment:

Kim said...

Love the post and what a uplifting day!!!!!