Soldiers Coach, Mentor Local Special Olympics Student-Athletes

We’ve got a very wonderful guest blogger today! Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs is here today to share a story he wrote about his unit’s volunteering with Schools Partnership Program student-athletes!

A military unit recently partnered with a local school to coach and mentor athletes participating in the Tri-Valley Special Olympics.

Soldiers in the 1st Regiment, 363rd Combat Support/Combat Service Support, Training Battalion, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, teamed up with students in Dublin High School’s Transition Program for last month’s Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program competition.

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“It is important for our Soldiers to be a part of something larger then ourselves and, in the process, contribute to the community that hosts us in a positive manner, highlighting and demonstrating the professional Army ethic we are all well versed in,” said Maj. Edward Worthington III, a native of Battle Creek, Mich., and executive officer for the 363rd. Worthington, who partnered the unit and the school, said the focus of the partnership is to impact the lives of the children while leading the way for the command’s focus of giving back to the community.

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Although students in the Tri-Valley area’s transition programs normally focus on their ability to become independent contributors in society while overcoming their individual handicaps, teamwork and athleticism took center stage during the Special Olympics.

Outside the school, Soldiers from the 363rd coached the Dublin High School students in basketball dribbling skills and passing, layup and shooting drills. Inside the gym, students played full-court basketball games with 10-minute halves.

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When the Dublin students took the court, they had their very own military cheering section. Not only did the Soldiers cheer for Dublin’s transition team, they also cheered on their opponents.

Before the Special Olympics, some of the Soldiers had never worked with or been around children [with intellectual disabilities].

“I really had to put myself out there and try to keep a good outlook on everything, because I kept seeing what they couldn’t do,” said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stickels, a native of Waldorf, Md., and the 363rdMedical noncommissioned officer. Stickels, who doesn’t have children and has never worked with children with special needs, wasn’t sure how he would fit in or relate to the kids.

“As the day went on, I saw that they weren’t letting their disability be a roadblock to them and they pushed through and accomplished things I didn’t think they had in them,” he said.

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Stickels said he had to work outside of his comfort zone to understand how the children were able to reach their goals and achievements.

“It gave me enormous pride to see the smiles on their faces when they tried something, whether they accomplished it or not,” Stickels said.  “I’m hoping over the next few weeks, as we work with them more, I not only learn more about them but more about myself.”

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The 1st Regiment, 363rd Combat Support/Combat Service Support, Training Battalion, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, supports units throughout the complete training cycle to achieve collective training readiness in accordance with United States Armed Forces Command, First Army, and 189th Infantry Brigade directives in building competent and capable units able to meet the Army Force Generation requirements.

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