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NCAA Division III SAAC hits homerun with Special Olympics softball clinic

The NCAA Division III National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the NCAA Division III Management Council led a softball event for about 30 Special Olympics athletes from Hamilton County on July 22.

About 20 SAAC members, 15 Management Council representatives and a handful of NCAA national office staff members teamed up with Special Olympics athletes to share in a spirited afternoon of softball drills, homerun celebrations, a game between “The Purple People Eaters” and “The Orange Crush” and  a tasty BBQ.

"Special Olympics Hamilton County was thrilled to participate in this softball event with NCAA Division III,” said John Moore, director of softball for Special Olympics Hamilton County.

“Our Special Olympic athletes and families had a great time and I have heard wonderful feedback from many of the participants.  It is partnerships like this that help make our Special Olympics program stronger and more rewarding."

Even with temperatures almost reaching 100 degrees, the Special Olympics athletes, athletics administrators and SAAC members snubbed the heat for batting and catching lessons, perfecting their home run trot and a few sweaty innings of play. 

"My favorite part of our Special Olympics softball event was the post-game huddle on the mound,” said Tucker Glass, former Plattsburgh State University of New York lacrosse student-athlete and SAAC member.

“In athletics there is nothing more harmonious, energetic and sacred than the culminating huddle, and to experience that with all of the Special Olympics athletes was a truly memorable and lasting moment that I will forever treasure."  

The Division III SAAC initiated a partnership with Special Olympics at the 2011 NCAA Convention. The official launch of the partnership was August 1, 2011. About a year into the partnership, over $118,000 has been raised for Special Olympics, and about 100 institutions and 40 conferences have conducted an event.

"The Special Olympics and Division III partnership is important to the SAAC, because it greatly enhances the Division III student-athlete experience,” said Dalaine Whitlock, soccer student-athlete at Concordia University (Tex.) and SAAC member.

“The NCAA Division III student-athletes and the Special Olympics athletes share the same love and passion for athletics, and through this shared passion we are given the opportunity to break down barriers, and impact the culture on campuses by changing the perception of intellectually disabled individuals. After participating in one event with Special Olympics, you realize that this partnership is something that can change lives."

Additional national SAAC and Special Olympics events are planned in conjunction with the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics International Conference that will be in Indianapolis this November  and for the 2013 NCAA Convention that will be held in Grapevine, Tex.