A couple of weeks ago at a Special Olympics Bowling Competition I spent a good bit of time with our Special Olympics athletes who bowl using a ramp. These are bowlers unable to throw a bowling ball because of limited strength and mobility. The ramps have a metal frame with a 30-degree slope. Each ramp is placed on the approach by a coach, and then the direction in which the ramp is aimed (if at all possible) is determined by the athlete. Once ready, the ball is then placed on top of the ramp and with a light push from the bowler, there is motion. A high percentage of the time pins fall.
I have watched Special Olympics accommodate our athletes’ unique needs for years, yet I continue to be reminded of the fine line that comes with accommodating those needs. Coaches who figure out ways to DO LESS by training the athletes to DO MORE, give their athletes a greater opportunity to be as independent as possible. That matters – a lot.
By being face-to-face with our ramp bowlers, I learned that even on a ramp, they can put spin on the ball. They told me that some lanes roll different from others, so it takes a few frames just to figure out what adjustments need to be made. As I listened and watched, I was reminded that it’s not up to anyone to decide how much potential lives within someone else. Amazing things can and do happen – even if it takes a very long time.
This weekend Special Olympics New Mexico will host its 2013 North Regional Bowling Tournament. There will be well over 600 athletes competing, and 140 will use ramps. If you happen to be there, pay attention to lanes 28 through 36. You won’t be sorry that you did.