As the Cabrini men’s and women’s basketball teams formed their rally lines, they weren’t preparing to see each other run through and slap hands. Instead, members of the Delaware County Special Olympics had the opportunity to hear their names announced. Their smiles made an everlasting impression on all who participated, making it a night to remember.
“The game came about because of Eric Habib, whose mom Anne is a community member here at the Dixon Center. Erik became a big fan of the [women’s basketball] team, coming to practices and games and even the Madison Square Garden game,” Bobbi Morgan, head women’s basketball coach, said.
On Tuesday, March 18, 40 Special Olympics athletes, ranging from ages 10 to 41, participated in Cabrini’s first Special Olympics basketball clinic and game.
The night began with drill stations run by members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Players taught participants fundamentals and skills necessary to be successful on the court.
Head Coach Gene Delaney said in an e-mail to Loquitur that the overall goal of the program is “to foster a family atmosphere for the athletes, coaches and parents, and to provide an athletics activity that can enrich the athletes’ physical well-being and emotional self-esteem.” Delaney has been a coach for 16 years.
Following the drills, each participant was given the chance to compete against the Cavaliers in an exhibition game.
“It is a sport that most kids can perform at some level, whether merely dribbling three times or possibly shooting 3-pointers. It also helps that it is an indoor activity that provides an excellent form of exercise for these athletes, which their parents know it quite good for their children,” Delaney said.
Assistant Coach Steve O’Connor has been involved with the organization for 14 years and has a son who plays.
“Seeing them, after hours and hours of practice, finally getting something you’ve been trying to teach them; no matter how small. Even after all these years, I still come away feeling great and realizing how good we all have it compared to others,” which is the best part of working with the Special Olympics, O’Connor said.
Not only were the participants able to improve their basketball skills, but the event surely helped them bolster their self-confidence and self-worth.
“It was not only fun but we were all able to learn a lot. I would love to come back next year,” Special Olympics participant Donnell Archie of Yaden, Pa. said.
The parents and coaches expressed their gratitude for the players who volunteered their time, hoping to make the clinic and game an annual event.
“It was great that we had enough old basketball jersey’s to give to each athlete. I got an e-mail the next morning from one of the parents saying that her son won’t take off his Cabrini jersey, he was wearing it to school today. How cool is that?” said Morgan.