Posted by Rick Palsgrove
Groveport editor

Photo courtesy Groveport Special Olympics
The Groveport Madison Cruiser youth soccer team recently hosted a summer soccer camp for Groveport Special Olympics athletes.

Some Special Olympics athletes recently got a real kick out of learning about soccer.

On June 26th, the Groveport Madison Cruiser college boys soccer team hosted its first annual summer soccer camp for Groveport Special Olympics athletes at the Cruiser Stadium at Groveport Madison High School.

“As the new head coach, I wanted to bring something to our program that would bring lifelong memories to our players and the community,” said Gerald Holton, Cruis Head Varsity Boys Soccer Coach. “The boys were excited to make this possible, but also a little nervous.”

Holton said the cruiser soccer players helped the Special Olympics athletes shoot, pass, and dribble the ball at various stages on the field, as well as doing a little scrimming.

Although this camp was run by the boys ‘soccer team, Holton called out to the cruiser girls’ soccer team to cheer on the Special Olympians; to Eva Debessay (sophomore on the girls’ soccer team) for the announcements; and to the girls’ head coach, Mark Coyer, for building the field to make the event possible.

“I think the boys’ soccer team took a lot out of camp too and taught them very important leadership skills,” said Holton. “This is new to a lot of them and they still don’t understand what it means to put on that football uniform and have a lot of young players look up to them. At first you could tell that many players were a little nervous about what to do or interact, but over time they got more relaxed and had fun. In the end they told me that it was a lot of fun and you can tell that the Special Olympians played with all their hearts. I hope that this camp will continue as a tradition for our program and that we can build on it every year. “

Holton said football is a good sport for the Special Olympians.

“Football is the most popular sport in the world and, like any team sport, has value on and off the field,” said Holton. “Football helps the players to get physically and mentally fit. It teaches players how to play as a team, how to deal with frustrations, how to win with dignity, setting goals, taking leadership, and so many things that can help them in life. Like any sports team, when you work together towards a common goal, you become part of a family. “

Holton said the Special Olympics program was “an amazing opportunity” for participants.

“I saw my cousin grow up who was at Special Olympics with Down syndrome and it was a great program for him to build his confidence, feel part of a group and compete in sports he loved,” said Holton . “He was one of the reasons I became involved in working with people with disabilities and taught me many valuable lessons that I still use today.”

Holton thanked the Columbus Crew for bringing out “SC” the Crew Cat and helping make the Special Olympics soccer camp even better for everyone.

Look ahead at that
upcoming boys soccer season
“It’s been a year’s roller coaster ride,” said Holton. “We have lost a lot of valuable players to graduation over the past two years and their footsteps are difficult to fill. I know we will have our problems early in the season as some of the players learn to take responsibility for their new roles, but I am confident that they will continue to show the true courage of a cruiser. “

Holton said some standouts to see on next year’s Cruiser boys soccer team will be Seniors David Lopez-Pascua, Ali Alanfagi, Abdou Diagne, Jaden Atkinson and Junior Eyobe Teferi.

About Special Olympics
The mission of Special Olympics Ohio and its Groveport Special Olympics Chapter is to provide year round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic sports for the mentally challenged. For information, contact local coordinators Penny and Cassandra Hilty at groveportspecialolympics@gmail.com or at (614) 395-8992 or 395-6640. Donations can be sent to Groveport Special Olympics, PO Box 296, Groveport, OH 43125.