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Calvin College Athletics Program to Join Nation-wide Division III Partnership With Special Olympics

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

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NCAA Division III Special Olympics Website

By sports information student assistant Andrew Knot

As part of the Division 3 National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Calvin athletics recently joined a partnership with the United States’ Special Olympic Committee, adding a valuable opportunity to the athletic department’s already service-driven outlook. 

The SAAC is an NCAA organization tiered at the national, conference, and school level.  The national, and governing, branch of the organization, seeks to “to enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting student-athlete welfare and fostering a positive student-athlete image,” according to the organization’s website. 
In an interview with NCAA.org, SAAC chair Marie Godwin said of the partnership, “The partnership will serve as another opportunity to demonstrate the power of mobilizing Division III student-athletes toward a common goal.”

In January of 2011, the NCAA linked with the Special Olympics as part of a citizenship and community outreach effort pledging to assist the Special Olympics in any way possible.  For the athletics department at Calvin, one of the 200 schools that already participate in Special Olympics outreach efforts, that means taking more ownership of the Area 11 Special Olympics tournament, held on campus annually on the first weekend in May.  In recent years, Calvin’s Service Learning Center and Amway Organization have been involved with the planning and hosting of the yearly tournament, which attracts athletes from across the area to compete in track and field events, among others.

Calvin Men’s Athletic Director Dr. Jim Timmer sees the partnership as a natural one.  Calvin, Division III and the Special Olympics share similar missions and educational-athletic models. 

“The partnership with the Special Olympics fits our mission for student athletes and Calvin’s broader mission,” said Timmer. 

Timmer expects the partnership to include the set-up, planning and hosting of the event.  He also hopes that Calvin’s athletes will receive firsthand contact with the Special Olympics athletes, as mentors, coaches, or training partners.
 
This isn’t the first, or only, experience in the charitable service arena for Calvin’s athletics teams.  In 2008 and 2009, Calvin’s SAAC sponsored several group events and teamed up with Habitat for Humanity. The school’s athletic teams are also expected and encouraged to complete at least one service project in the course of their season.  Calvin’s cross country teams have raked leaves for Mel Trotter Ministries and last year’s basketball team worked along Bethany Christian Services to put on a basketball clinic, for example. 

Timmer still trusts that the different athletic teams will continue their individual partnerships, but hopes the Special Olympics opportunity unites the athletic department in service.

“I see this partnership as a long-term commitment,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to unify behind one cause.”

Timmer also sees the benefits of volunteer service as two-way, and knows Calvin’s athletes and coaches feel the same way
. “Any time you participate in service, as our athletes have found out, you often end up benefiting even more than the people you are serving,” he said and later described the perspective such a service project can yield.

“After completing a project like this, maybe missing that ground ball or not running as fast as you wanted isn’t as important as you originally thought,” he said. 

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