A couple of weeks ago Special Olympics New Mexico hosted its first Unified Flag Football Competition. Twelve teams competed in an organized scrimmage, giving players and coaches the opportunity to run plays, make adjustments, and prepare for the State Competition, which will be held in Farmington on August 18th. Having never played this sport before in Special Olympics, I don’t think anyone who was there really knew what to expect or what this night may have meant.
It’s hard to articulate in a way that will adequately capture it, but from the time the athletes walked onto the field with their cleats, mouth guards, and jerseys – we saw Special Olympics athletes who watched this game their whole life, but were never invited to play it, at least not on an organized team. It was new to them, but not really. We had our share of Peyton Mannings, Brian Urlachers, and Jason Wittens, who approached each down with great concentration and victoriously danced in the end zone like the best of ’em. They LOVED it. In fact, they REALLY loved it.
I left with a full heart thinking what I always think – that more than anything else in the world people with intellectual disabilities simply want to live like everyone else lives and belong to the same things that we all belong to. If you are reading this and agreeing with it, it is my hope that you will take my words one step further and invite someone with an intellectual disability to join you in something you are doing in your life. After all, someone has to hike the ball before the good stuff can happen. It will mean a lot to both of you.