Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sports Unity Program

Sounds of laughter amidst applause and cheers. Just what you'd expect to hear at a youth sports activity--but not always what you'd expect to find in a special needs sports program. My heart soars with joy each and every week we are here.

We started with the Marlton Sports Unity Program (SUP) for winter basketball. Z didn't really want to try basketball but after finding out some of his Lenape "boys" were basketball players he agreed to at least try. He wouldn't smile at check in and hung back just a bit once inside the gym, but not more than 5 minutes in a couple of the adult buddies had him out on the court and playing.
He stayed involved and interested the whole season and, when he found out they were giving out trophies one night at practice he lamented "why do they have to stop?"

Getting his trophy from the VERY special
and awesome Coach Dave
I found out there would be SUP track in the spring along with soccer (his favorite sport). I told him I'd signed him up and waned him to just give it a try. As much as he didn't want to try basketball was minimal compared to how he felt about track. April brought the beginning of track and he was nervous about starting. His buddy was laid back but welcoming and encouraging and he was off to give it a try. Now not only does he keep trying but he is working hard to excel! This boy, who hated any kind of running now trying each and every activity leaves me speechless. Running is hard for him: he has loose ligaments and very low muscle tone which makes it exhausting and difficult to run, and the jolting of running along with that feeling of speed (noises of even the wind rushing past/losing a feeling of control over his environment ) are menaces to his sensory system. Yet I see him having a blast and enjoying each moment!
Coach Scott getting in on the action to show Z technique,
with buddy Karly right by his side.

Coach Scott giving loads of one on one tips
for the Javelin throw
Z keeps working hard for Coach Scott, and his
awesome buddy Lindsey.

  Obstacle course running
High fives after javelin work ;)

The buddies with SUP must attend a training session where they are educated about things they may experience with the special needs kids and how to address many different potential problems (redirect, soothe, comfort, or even disengage WITH their player from the activity, among many others). They are also told they will not have cell phones out, will not be seen inactive or without their player, and WILL not be tolerated if seen laughing at/about a player. The training shows. These kids, each and every one a volunteer, show more compassion, acceptance, and enthusiasm than many paid adults I've experienced in the special needs fields! 

Mark VonBerg began and runs the Marlton Sports Unity Program which includes the activities of soccer, track, basketball, karate, cheerleading, and soon introducing street hockey. Did I mention every program run through Sports Unity Program is FREE? Thanks doesn't begin to cover it but I'll say it anyway,


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