Cruiser soccer players help Special Olympics
By Rick Palsgrove
Some Special Olympics athletes have recently had a great time learning football.
On June 26, the Groveport Madison Cruiser Boys’ College Football Team hosted their first annual summer football camp for Groveport Special Olympics athletes at Cruiser Stadium at Groveport Madison High School.
âAs the new head coach, I wanted to bring something to our program that would help create lasting memories for our players and our community,â said Gerald Holton, Cruiser College Boys Soccer Head Coach. âThe boys were excited to make this happen, but a little nervous too. “
Holton said the Cruiser soccer players helped Special Olympics athletes shoot, pass and dribble with the ball at various stages of the field, as well as a bit of scrimmage.
Although this camp was hosted by the boys ‘soccer team, Holton thanked the Cruiser girls’ soccer team for cheering on the Special Olympians; to Eva Debessay (second year student of the girls’ football team) for making the announcements; and to female head coach Mark Coyer for setting up the pitch to help make the event a reality.
âI think the boys’ soccer team also benefited a lot from the camp and it taught them some really important leadership skills,â said Holton. âIt’s new to a lot of them and they still don’t understand what it means to wear that football uniform and that a lot of young players look up to them. At first you could tell that a lot of the players were a little nervous about what to do or how to interact, but over time they became more relaxed and started to have fun. At the end, they told me it was a lot of fun and you could tell the Special Olympians were playing with all their hearts. I hope that this camp will be carried on as a tradition for our program and that we can draw inspiration from it each year to come.
Holton said soccer is a good sport for Special Olympians.
âFootball is the most popular sport in the world and like any team sport it has value on and off the pitch,â said Holton. âFootball helps players get in shape physically and mentally. He teaches players how to play as a team, deal with frustrations, how to win with dignity, set goals, lead and so many things that can benefit them in life. Like any sports team, when you work together towards a common goal, you are part of a family.
Holton said the Special Olympics program is “an incredible opportunity” for its participants.
âI watched my cousin who was at the Special Olympics grow up with Down syndrome and it was a great program for him to build his self-confidence, to feel part of a group and to participate in sports that he had to do. ‘he loved it,’ said Holton. âIt was one of the reasons I got involved in working with people with disabilities and it taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I still use today. “
Holton thanked the Columbus Crew for bringing out âSCâ the Crew Cat and helping to make Special Olympics soccer camp even better for everyone.
Looking forward to the
next season of boys football
âIt’s been a roller coaster for a year now,â said Holton. âWe have lost a lot of valuable players over the past two years due to graduation and their shoes are difficult to fill. I know we’re going to have a hard time at the start of the season as some of the players learn to take ownership of their new roles, but I have no doubts that they will continue to show the true courage of a Cruiser.
Holton said some of the personalities to watch in this year’s Cruiser men’s football team will be returning 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 athletic training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities. For more information, contact local coordinators Penny and Cassandra Hilty at [email protected] or (614) 395-8992 or 395-6640. Donations can be sent to Groveport Special Olympics, PO Box 296, Groveport, OH 43125.