Behind the Scenes of a Young Athletes Day


We had our first-ever Young Athletes Day in Northern Nevada, and it was a great day had by all! Working in tandem, Special Olympics Nevada Schools Partnership Program and the Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada worked together with host site Galena High School. Click here to read about the day! We caught up with Maddie Vivolo, who is an intern and program developer with the Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada, to get her thoughts on the Young Athletes Day and her first experience with the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program! What can you tell us about your role in the event?

Ms. Vivolo: I was at the event because I am the intern for Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada, which helped create and implement this program. I was there to help oversee everything that happened and make sure that our athletes and volunteers had fun. How do you think the event impacts the athletes and students involved?

MV: I think it had a very positive effect on the participants! It got the students engaged with our other athletes while learning track and field skills. It is a healthy environment for everyone and there are so many positive skills that come out of these events. Everyone is participating in an active lifestyle and learning how to be involved with the community. Not only are the athletes learning sporting skills, but they’re also growing their social skills and learning how to interact with others. Is there anything about the event that happened that you weren’t expecting?

MV: Something that surprised me about the event was the attendance number and how smoothly the event ended up running! We had more students show up than actually signed up, which was awesome! I wasn’t sure on how smoothly the event would go because it was the very first one, but all of our volunteers stepped up and really took the reigns of the activities making this event turn out great. How would you explain the Young Athletes Day to someone who doesn’t know what this is?

 MV: The Young Athletes Program is an innovative sports play program designed for children ages 2-7 with all abilities. Special Olympics and the Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada partnered together to bring the Young Athletes Program to Northern Nevada and get the community involved. This program is to help young children get familiar with different sports play and prepare them for Special Olympics at age eight. We recently started the program in Northern Nevada and its first sporting event was track & field. The athletes participated in a series of activities that taught them different skills about track and field. What made you want to get involved?

MV: I like hands-on activities that require interaction and involvement. This position and program caught my attention because of the impact it has had on the community. Both the Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada and Special Olympics have a positive reputation around the community, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to be a part of that. I also found this program very rewarding and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Special Olympics and DSNNN and create this incredible new program. How is the activity different than anything you’ve ever done?

MV: I never taught children (with or without disabilities) how to play a sport before. I’ve grown up playing sports, but it’s different having to teach rather than participate. What suggestions would you give other schools, students, and teachers about being involved?

MV: I suggest that you reach out to people who want to participate earlier so they have time to RSVP and then you can recruit the appropriate number of volunteers. It was a great event and experience, but you definitely need enough help especially with how young the children are. What did you think before the event and what are you thinking now that it was successful?

MV: I was nervous about the day because I felt that it came so quickly. I was prepared for everything it just hadn’t hit me that the program was really starting. My nerves are now gone because we had a great day and our athletes are already talking about the next meeting. What has been the best part of this experience?

MV: The best part of this experience is getting to work with such amazing people and seeing how much fun our athletes had. It is even more rewarding when you see that all of your hard work paid off. What has been the most challenging aspect?

MV: The most challenging part was getting participants out to the event. It is such a new program that no one knew what to except which made it difficult to recruit people. What would you tell others about your experience?

MV: The Young Athletes Day was filled with fun while still being educational and engaging everyone involved in physical activity. There was positive energy and this program can only bring great things to our community. Do you think this impacts the students beyond sports?

MV: Yes! This program can impact the participants not only through physical activity, but it can also help them gain some social skills by engaging with other people involved.

Thanks Maddie and everyone who helped make this Young Athletes Day a success!


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