World Games Updates
Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver speaks with Rhett Harris about his experience at the Motor Activites Training Program event. Photo by Jenny Tenney
MATP Opens Doors for Those with Severe Disabilities
“I’m rocking it!” said Boise State University (BSU) student volunteer Tiffany Edgar. She and 30 fellow students from the BSU Adapted Physical Education Department volunteered at the first Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program (MATP) Challenge Day to be held at a World Winter Games. It’s also the first time Special Olympics Idaho has conducted MATP, as they continue to reach more individuals within this population.
Nineteen athletes from a local high school and the ARC of Idaho participated in the MATP Challenge Day on 12 February. Dr. Karen Castagno, Associate Dean for Teacher Education at Rhode Island College served as the technical delegate for this event with special assistance by Corby Goade, Special Olympics Idaho Vice President of Sports and Training.
Castagno says that MATP events provide individuals with severe disabilities the opportunity to participate in sport activities that may lead to participation in other types of Special Olympics events. “This sport experience lets them demonstrate their personal best; it is tailored to their abilities and provides them with fun and functional activities that they can practice and then demonstrate to an audience,” she said. “Some challenges may seem small, but knowing that you have accomplished something through hard work and determination is rewarding.”
Goade explained that the field of play for this inaugural Challenge Day consisted of eight stations that will help develop real sports skills. They can also be modified for a higher or lower degree of difficulty so that each person is challenged according to their skill level. For example, the “striking suspended objects” station will help prepare athletes for T-ball. Athletes could strike different size balls suspended on strings with either a tennis racquet or a baseball bat. Other stations included a throwing and catching station (complete with Velcro mitts in case athletes need help catching), gymnastics station (with a mini-trampoline), baseball station (complete with bases for running), golf station, bowling station, wheelchair slalom and a kicking station with a football (soccer) goal.
All the athletes were laughing and excited, and for many of them it was the first sport and social activity they had experienced. “It’s a blast,” and “It’s so much fun,” were expressions of joy heard over and over.
During the award ceremony, in which every MATP athlete received a beautiful medal designed and donated by Special Olympics sponsor Midwest Trophy specifically for this event, athletes were delighted to be singled out for a presentation and applause. When Goade presented Sami Jo Holmberg with her medal, he said, “You looked good at the golf station. I know you’re only getting started, but it looks like there’s some 400-yard drives in your future.”
Castagno explains that the effects of a Challenge Day can be far-reaching. “A young boy at a Challenge Day a few years ago came over to the striking station that was set up with golf activities. He really enjoyed hitting the ball through the tunnel and into a box we had set up for the hole. He was so excited about this activity that his coach mentioned it to his parents later that day. While the family was on vacation the next month, they came across a miniature golf course and the entire family played,” she said.
“Some parents are surprised at the sports skills that their son or daughter demonstrates,” said Castagno. “Many are touched by the non-verbal expressing of joy when they receive their challenge medal for demonstrating their personal best. It further strengthens what already is a close family bond and brings a lot of joy in shared accomplishment.”
After these World Games, BSU volunteers will connect one-on-one with the local high school MATP athletes and plan the stations for their own Challenge Day in April. “I think if high school students got involved it would open up their eyes as to the population in their own schools and it would build tremendous understanding among people,” said Edgar.