Last Saturday, we had the wonderful opportunity to showcase our Young Athlete Program at a field day at Gregory Gardens Elementary School in Pleasant Hill. Three different preschools participated with about 50 youngins and 20 middle school volunteers in attendance. The preschoolers could bowl, try out the balance beam or choose from basketball, baseball or soccer.
Other sections of the field day included face painting, an obstacle course and kite making. But, as one of the older siblings pointed out – “The Special Olympics station is really popular!”
Our Young Athlete Program (YAP) is for children with intellectual disabilities between age 2 and 7, which makes them too young for our general sports program. But thanks to YAP – which is part of our Schools Partnership Program – they get introduced to sports with the hopeful future goal of participating in Special Olympics when they get older. The middle school volunteers also had a blast.
Not every YAP looks exactly the same or like the schools competitions we’ve blogged about, but there’s almost always soccer, basketball or track involved. It’s a great time for the parents to see their little ones play sports, interact with others their age and older as well as be absolutely adorable. With soccer, many of the little ones didn’t want to kick the ball. Instead, they’d pick up the ball and put it in the goal.
Similar to our Schools Partnership Program competitions, these field days are great for the kids because they don’t always have the opportunity to play organized sports like their older, non-disabled siblings. Our Young Athlete Program is a great way to gradually introduce sports to them.
About the Young Athlete Program:
The Young Athlete Program focuses on the basics that are crucial to cognitive development: physical activities that develop motor skills and hand‐eye coordination and the application of these physical skills through sports skills and programs. YAP offers children with intellectual disabilities and their peers opportunities for meaningful interaction that leads to future relationships of mutual respect, friendship and inclusion. The program also serves as an introduction for new families to use resources and support available within Special Olympics, while providing a vehicle for families to network with each other. The program is appropriate for various learning situations, preschools, schools and play groups with small groups of young children. It is also versatile enough for families to play with their young athletes at home in a fun and safe atmosphere. The flexibility of the Young Athlete Program ensures the opportunity to welcome families and their young children into the Special Olympics family.