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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Special Olympics training, games rewarding for athletes, coaches

The Special Olympics Fall Classic will be held in Bryan-College Station Thursday through Saturday.
More than 1,200 athletes will come from around the state to compete in aquatics, bocce, golf, softball, and triathlon events.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition to persons with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities, said Special Olympics spokesman Scott Patterson.
Athletes train intensively for eight weeks before each sports competition, but the benefits of Special Olympics last much longer, Patterson said. The games give the athletes an opportunity to develop social skills, improve self-esteem, and acquire physical fitness.
“In order to compete in Special Olympics, a person must legally suffer from mental retardation, not just physical disabilities,” Patterson said.”Athletes can start competing at age eight and continue for as long as they are able.”
The games are important to the athletes who train for them, Patterson said.
“For them, it is a chance to work hard at something and compete and perform for themselves and for their family,” he said. “Athletes come from around the state to compete in the events year after year. Special Olympics serve as a social structure that promotes friendships and bonds that benefit all of the athletes.”
More than 28,000 volunteers in Texas dedicate their time to Special Olympics. Volunteers can serve as coaches, officials, committee members, competition assistants and speech coaches. The Fall Classic will feature 500 volunteer coaches, 500 family members, 1,500 community volunteers, and 5,000 spectators.
“Most families and volunteers come away saying that they are inspired by the smiles on the faces of these wonderful athletes,” Patterson said.
Special Olympics is a chance for athletes to interact with the community that supports them, said Bonnie Caver, public relations president for Special Olympics.
“The games give the benefits of life skills through the sports venue,” Caver said. “Most volunteers come out for the day to make a difference in someone’s life, and they do. But in reality, most of the athletes benefit the volunteers more.”
Curtis Jackson, 23, is one of the athletes who will compete in the Fall Classic. Special Olympics gives Jackson a chance to participate in the sporting events that he loves, said his grandmother, Paully Niles. In the Fall Classic, he will participate in golf and bowling, which he has been training hard for. Niles is one of the volunteers that dedicates her time to the games.
Since 1990, Niles has been coaching golf, bocce, and bowling.
“The games give these athletes an opportunity to continue competition and have something to do after graduation,” Niles said. “It is a very social event for them and Curtis has made many friends throughout his years in the competition.”
Jackson has been a Special Olympics athlete since he was eight years old, she said.
“He really enjoys sports,”Niles said. “Curtis is kind of bashful, but the competition helps him open up a little. Since he has started, the games have really made a big difference in his personality, he is definitely more outgoing.
“The Special Olympics allow Curtis to interact with other people,” she added. “Otherwise, he would be alone.”

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