A couple weeks ago the University of New Mexico’s men’s basketball team, led by newly hired Coach Paul Weir, hosted a clinic at the Pit for a group of our local Special Olympics athletes. As the Special Olympics athletes took the floor, I was invited by Coach Weir to meet with his players and coaches to give them an idea of what to expect. He wasn’t sure that any of them had ever spent any time with a Special Olympics athlete, and I wasn’t sure he had, so to his credit, Coach was thoughtful enough to ensure everyone was going to have the best experience possible.
We met in the film room. I talked – they listened – and then everyone took the floor. In a matter of minutes, the game of basketball did what the game of basketball always does – it brought everyone together. Athletes with athletes regardless of ability share a common bond when there’s a ball and a hoop.
It was a great clinic and at the end, we gave each Lobo a sharpie to sign our athletes’ Lobo t-shirts they had received that night. A few minutes went by and Coach Weir wandered over to me with a smile on his face. A bit surprised he said “He asked me if I wanted his autograph.” And there it was, on his beautiful Lobo Basketball Nike polo – the signature of one of our Special Olympics athletes.
I love it that our athletes, just like the Lobos, are “stars” in their own minds. I love it that Coach Paul Weir now has his own Special Olympics moment to remember – with a smile and an autograph that will last as long as the shirt does.