NEW LONDON, Conn. – Mitchell College recently welcomed athletes from Special Olympics Connecticut (SOCT) to campus for an evening of fun, competition and camaraderie.
The Special Olympics Basketball Jamboree, which took place on January 29 at the Yarnall Athletic Center, included seven local teams from the towns of Groton, Griswold and Saybrook. Nearly 60 SOCT athletes took part in the fun, with ages ranging from 13 to adult.
Members of the Mitchell Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) created the event as an interactive way for Special Olympics athletes to showcase their abilities while joining forces with student-athletes from Mitchell College. Over 100 student-athletes from Mitchell's 12 varsity programs participated in the event.
The jamboree, which consisted of 10-minute, 5-on-5 games played in round robin format, highlighted the competitive spirit of the athletes. The seven Special Olympics teams, along with one team of Mitchell student-athletes, competed in three games each. Each Special Olympics team also had five Mitchell "recruits" for the evening who played and competed alongside them.
"Playing at Mitchell College at the Basketball Jamboree was awesome," said Guillen Colom, a member of the youth team from Saybrook. "The students were excited to watch us play. The best was when one of their players (Evan) played on our team for one game. He was really good."
The event was the result of three months of careful planning by the Mitchell SAAC, a group of 25 student-athletes who meet bi-weekly and voice opinions on NCAA matters at the campus, conference and national levels. The SAAC was eager to partner with SOCT again after hosting a small volleyball tournament in the fall.
"We were extremely happy with how everything turned out," said JD LeMay, a senior on the Mitchell men's lacrosse team and co-president of the SAAC. "We had a great turnout from Special Olympics athletes, as well as Mitchell College students, and it was nice to see the enjoyment in the faces of all the athletes. This was one of the biggest events that Mitchell SAAC has ever set up, and we want to continue to run events similar to this in the future."
In between games, participants took part in skill competitions that showcased abilities such as shooting and dribbling. Volunteers who were not recruited to a specific team helped to run the intermission competitions, and both the men and women's basketball teams served key roles in running warm-ups, keeping score and officiating games.
The Basketball Jamboree concluded with volunteers, players and coaches sharing their experiences over dinner that was provided by Supreme Pizza. All players also received a participation gift courtesy of the Mitchell SAAC.
"The Mitchell College SAAC group did a great job hosting the Basketball Jamboree," said Marc Mercadante, Senior Director for Community Impact at SOCT. "Our teams were treated like champions by the students. They created an enthusiastic atmosphere that allowed our athletes to make new friends and show their skills. Everyone walked away with a positive experience. They are looking forward to coming back to Mitchell College again."
Special Olympics Connecticut provides year-round sports training and competitions for over 14,000 athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and Unified Partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities who are the athletes' teammates).
In addition to its traditional sports programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities, the Special Olympics Unified Sports® program brings athletes with and without intellectual disabilities together to play sports, gain physical fitness and develop friendships. Special Olympics Unified Sports® is offered in communities across the state, for individuals of all ages.