Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2018 – Special Olympics Basketball

Name: Lauren Lehner
From: Wauconda , IL
Grade: freshmen
School: University Of Colorado Colorado Springs
Votes: 0

Special Olympics Basketball

Volunteering as a basketball coach to kids with special needs, and/or disabilities
has heavily impacted my views on teaching, the special needs
community, and overall has allowed and encouraged me, and the kids I
was working with, to become stronger and better individuals.

I had the privilege in my last year of highschool to work with the
Special Needs junior varsity basketball team at my high school, a
team of 11 kids, and four junior coaches. The 15 of us would meet
bi-weekly at the local park district and work on skills training,
team building activities, and focus on ways of improvement both as a
team and as individuals. We all grew very close throughout the
duration of the season and formed a confident and inspirational group
of kids.

Practices ran nearly three hours a week twice a week, we would have games twice
a week week that typically ran 3 hours, and then one large tournament
at the end of our season. Being a coach included planning and
instructing practices, creating game plans, being responsible for 11
kids, but mostly forming relationships with the kids. We spent a lot
of time playing basketball, but our main focus was always what the
kids were getting out of this program. They were able to practice
communication skills, forming new relationships, team building, and
the importance of forming relationships.

The kids were amazing, we started as a small and rather hodge-podge
group, but we had to opportunity to see the kids grow stronger and
find their confidence, practice teamwork and really turn into a team.
And the even cooler thing was we starting winning games- a lot of
them too. The special olympic basketball team was a fairly new
addition to our high school, so when we started winning all of our
games, then our tournaments, then ended up making it all the way to
state, you could imagine the excitement all the kids and families,
and especially coaches felt. We were able to turn a mediocre group of
high school kids into something really great for the entire
community, and something that is now growing and able to help more
and more kids.

My biggest challenge throughout volunteering has always been patience, I
had never taught anyone anything let alone coach a basketball team
with three other high schoolers, so finding the appropriate dynamic
posed as a challenge to me. But after trial and error, I was able to
learn a lot about how teaching works, and what doesn’t work. But
the most satisfying thing of volunteering with these kids was seeing
them succeed, the energy in the room when our team found out they
were going to play at state was magical. The feeling when you can see
the way you’ve impacted someone, and witness them succeed at
something they never thought possible is truly an amazing.

Volunteering has inspired me to set higher goals, create more relationships, and
take more opportunities. This position has opened doors to new career
options, as well made me a better teacher and more patient
individual, and inspired me in many ways. By coaching upcoming
generations of special needs kids and Helping them find confidence in
themselves I want to continue to break the trend of society putting
limits on their abilities.

I am grateful that I was able to share this experience with my team and
co-captains, and was able to create such amazing relationships with
the kids on the team. I learned a lot about teaching and the
importance of setting goals, and surpassing them because anything is
possible. The most important thing the kids taught me was the only
way to achieve your dreams is by leaving your comfort zone.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".