Yesterday I was rummaging through old files and came across some notes I made from a lecture I heard. Part of the notes said this: “People with intellectual disabilities need opportunities to practice applying their skills, so when they are included in society, they will be well equipped to take on their own lives.” Having spent all last Saturday with our athletes as they competed in the 2022 State Poly Hockey Championships, my thoughts today are this:
Despite two years of isolation for many Special Olympics athletes, each athlete applied skills during the Poly Hockey tournament that many of us could stand to improve on. All day long I watched Special Olympics athletes treat each other and everyone around them as long-lost friends. When they were in the rink hitting the puck–and often hitting each other while flying to the floor or into the side walls–they always checked to make sure no one was hurt before returning to action. They played with great effort, didn’t complain about anything all day, and fully embraced living in the moment. When they weren’t competing, they cheered for those who were. Our athletes had fun–the kind of fun that is contagious. And at the end of the day, as tired as they were, they helped tear down the hockey rink, helped load the rink onto the truck, and before heading out, thanked us repeatedly for hosting the tournament.
Simply through their actions, Special Olympics athletes displayed a wonderful job of using their skills and taking on their lives, leaving the rest of us more thoughtful of how we can do the same.