Story courtesy of the Arizona Region
The Arizona Region helped make the reemergence of volleyball a big splash at the Special Olympics Arizona Summer Games held at Mesa Community College April 30-May 2.
A Region-sponsored clinic was held on the morning of May 2 and saw several athletes learning the basic skills of the game. Afterward, an exhibition was played between two teams from the Coconino chapter of Special Olympics Arizona and a unified team of athletes and partners from the East Valley of Phoenix. Four sets were played to rousing applause from the fans, parents and athletes in attendance.
The Coconino team is what is called a traditional team, made up completely of Special Olympians.The East Valley team was made up of Special Olympics athletes and their teammates without intellectual disabilities practicing and playing together on Unified Sports teams.
Region help was abundant. Longtime Valley high school and club coach Leaven Eubank raced from Buckeye, nearly 60 miles away where he had just opened his gym for a Region tournament, just to take part in the clinic and the exhibition. Kathy Anderson, also a local coach, brought her three daughters, Kaylee, Michele and Lexi, to help and participate as well. Eleven-year-old Madison Underwood was there helping to shag balls and take pictures.
Teresa Scobee, the Grassroots director for the Arizona Region enlisted the help of her husband and children to help make the East Valley’s Unified team a reality. She contacted the Special Olympics Coordinator for the City of Tempe Parks and Recreation Adapted Recreation Programs Yolanda Matthews who worked quickly to garner athletes and coaches. She enlisted the help of local coaches Craig Pratt and Livia Pearce and the Golden Thunder Unified team was born.
For Arizona, it’s a start to bring volleyball back into the local chapters after a long absence and with the interest generated, odds are next year’s summer games will see a complete tournament and in years to come, perhaps even a beach doubles competition.
For now, these coaches, volunteers and athletes enjoyed an inspiring morning together and together helped put a face on our game not soon forgotten.