Special Olympics athletes compete in a regional basketball tournament

BLACKSBURG, Virginia. – Special Olympics athlete Melinda Andrews’ favorite part about basketball: “Trying to get the ball from the other team to win,” she said.

Melinda is one of dozens of athletes who participated in the regional basketball tournament at Cassell Coliseum Sunday.

Nancy Morehouse is the director of the Southwest Section of Special Olympics Virginia and says the tournament focuses on unified teams.

“Unified sports means roughly equal numbers of people with and without disabilities play on teams together,” Morehouse said.

They want everyone to feel included, regardless of ability.

“Their life at school or maybe even sports at their school that they didn’t always feel very included,” Morehouse said.

Morehouse says Virginia Tech worked to make the day inclusive and special for all athletes.

“Just seeing the excitement when they take the court for the first time,” she said. “And, you know, I went in recently and realized that HokieVision is there and they have live cameras. And our athletes just feel so confident and proud to be a part of this community.”

Each team had its own group of fans, which consisted of volunteers.

“In other places around the state. We are in the same gym with two teams and parents. But that way we actually get a home crowd for each team,” Morehouse said.

Morehouse says events like this help build the confidence of athletes and volunteers.

“Our athletes and our partners alike are developing a lot of self-confidence and a sense of self,” she said. “Based on the fact that they’re doing something that’s part of something bigger than just what they’re going to do on a day-to-day basis at their job or at school.”

As for the athletes, like Steve Motley, they are focused on the game.

“I came to the Special Olympics to have a good time with my friends,” Motley said. “And I hope we win tonight. I was ready. I was ready yesterday.”

WSLS is pleased to partner with NRV polar plunge. Our team includes Britney McGraw, Jeff Ganevich and other familiar faces.

Proceeds from the Polar Plunge go to Special Olympics Virginia.

Copyright 2023 WSLS 10 – All rights reserved.

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