FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Sunday was a worthwhile day for both the Northern Arizona men's and women's tennis teams as the Lumberjacks conducted a free clinic for Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ) at Continental Country Club.
"It is really important for the Special Olympic athletes to have the opportunity to play with the college players because they're superheroes to them," said Teresa Scobee, SOAZ's Volunteer Volleyball Director. "The fact that the players were willing to share their sport with them and let the Special Olympic athletes show what they can do on the court is a meaningful experience for both sides. Everyone goes home with their lives changed immensely. The NAU players giving us the opportunity to come up here is priceless."
Scobee, who works with the Special Olympic athletes, originally came up by invitation to a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meeting and presented the NAU student-athletes with an opportunity to host a sports specific clinic for SOAZ or to designate a game or match as Special Olympics night. The NAU volleyball team previously conducted a clinic for SOAZ earlier this year and also allowed the Special Olympic athletes to compete on the court during intermission at a match.
Senior Malia Wahinepio of the NAU women's tennis team then took the steps toward coordinating Sunday's clinic for SOAZ. She contacted Scobee and gathered both teams and coaches for this special opportunity.
"After the volleyball team did their thing with them, I got excited and I wanted to involved the NAU tennis team with the community," Wahinepio said. "It's great for NAU and our athletic department to reach out to our community and show that we're willing to help anybody. I think everyone had a lot of fun today and we hope to do this again in the future."
Players and coaches from both tennis programs assisted with the Special Olympic athletes and guided them through drills. The athlete participants were taught forehand and backhand shots as well as volleying at the net. The clinic concluded in a game that allowed the athletes to showcase what they had learned.
Special Olympics Arizona's goal is to empower those with intellectual disabilities through sports. There exists over 180,000 individuals in the state of Arizona with intellectual disabilities.
"Sometimes people don't know how to get into sports when they have intellectual disabilities and that's why these types of opportunities is so empowering," Scobee said. "It's all about having a positive experience for everybody and Malia is the reason this clinic happened today. She's my hero."
For more information about Special Olympics Arizona, visit www.SpecialOlympicsArizona.org. Scobee can be contacted by phone at 480-580-4393 or by email at GrowTheGame@aol.com. Jim Rudow is SOAZ's Mountain Area Director and is based in Flagstaff. He can be reached at 928-890-9813 or Jim@SpecialOlympicsArizona.org.