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Special Olympics hosts soccer tourney

Charlie Ducey | Friday, April 19, 2013

 

In an effort to promote intercollegiate Special Olympics, Notre Dame hosted a soccer tournament last Sunday in collaboration with Western Michigan University and the University of Michigan. 

Senior Ted Glasnow, co-president of Special Olympics Notre Dame, said Special Olympics Unified Sports combines an approximately equal number of athletes with intellectual disabilities and athletes without intellectual disabilities on teams for training and competition. 

“Unified soccer avoids what can sometimes be the patronizing relationship between volunteers without intellectual disability and athletes with intellectual disabilities,” Glasnow said. “This event shows that the former is not the only party that can bring something to the table and highlights the equality that should exist in society in general.”

Glasnow said the tournament took place Apr. 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Alumni Field. There were three games, and each team played the other two teams. The team from Western Michigan won the tournament, Michigan’s team came in second and Notre Dame placed third.

The players dedicated eight weeks to training after the teams took shape in January, Glasnow said. He said the participation of the athletes was more important than the outcome of the games themselves.

Glasnow said the soccer tournament, while perhaps only a small start, attests to the rising involvement in Special Olympics activities at the college level and the passion students bring to these activities.

“A few years back, Special Olympics International did not think it was worthwhile to promote the type of volunteerism they do for younger demographics,” he said. “So, we felt the need to prove that college students can bring the same, if not more, passion to their service through Special Olympics.”

Glasnow said his passion comes from serving as a coach of Special Olympics track and field since high school. He said events like the unified soccer tournament will galvanize colleges around the country to consider adding and expanding Special Olympics programs for their students, incorporating teams like the ones that participated in Sunday’s tournament into their full athletic lineups.

“We are already working with schools across the country, in accordance with the Special Olympics nationa-l office, to spread the event even further,” Glasnow said. “Eventually, we hope to have state, regional and national collegiate Unified sports seasons.”

Glasnow said he felt the event ought to have received more support from the Notre Dame student body. 

“Many friends and family members of the athletes showed up from the community,” he said. “But we had a disappointing number of students.”

Glasnow said Special Olympics Notre Dame intends to continue and hopefully expand the united soccer event next year.

“We are definitely going to have the event again next year,” Glasnow said. “We are hoping for at least four teams next year, but we are certainly shooting for as many as we can get.” 

Glasnow said Adidas and Special Olympics Indiana sponsored the tournament.