Local Student-athletes Partner With Special Olympians

MORRO BAY — Thursday morning, in the middle of all the coronavirus pandamonium, a group of athletes from all across the county came together for a day of fun, smiles and soccer. Morro Bay High School brought in athletes, both regular student-athletes and those with disabilities, from San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Templeton, and Los Osos for a day of Unified Sports and a little Special Olympics preparation for the big regional event that is scheduled for May.

“This is a special Olympics sanctioned event so this is kind of a warm-up before the big regional games,” Morro Bay teacher and event organizer Josh Voerman said. “We focus on a different sport or sports and the focus of this one that we’re having is soccer. So we have it broken down it soccer tournaments and soccer skill stations for athletes that have a harder time competing in team sports.”

There were six different programs participating from the five schools with Morro Bay High Schools MI SDC (More Intensive Special Day Classes) playing host to the Paso Robles’ ALP (Adaptive Learning Program), their adult program that focuses on students over the age of 18, Templeton High School MM (Mild-Moderate Special Day Class) Progam and Los Osos Middle School MI SDC.

Morro Bay High School set up their football field with three soccer fields running perpendicular to the normal field set up as student-athletes and highest functioning Special Olympians played, competed, laughed and learned from each other while those with more severe restrictions practiced their skills in a mini soccer obstacle course.

“The big idea behind it all is unified sports,” Voerman said. “We are kind of uniting students with disabilities, sometimes severe disabilities and we are having them play alongside typic student-athletes and so it is a cool opportunity for both groups to play together, collaborate, learn from each other and have fun together is the big thing. It is really about giving everyone an opportunity, you know, our friends with special needs don’t always get an opportunity to play so out here they get an opportunity and it works both ways because typical athletes don’t get chances to play with and learn about our other students so it is really cool to see that.”

While most of the schools choose to bring regular student-athletes from their high schools to play with and learn from the athletes, Templeton brought out students from Eagle Canyon, Templeton’s continuation school, and gave them an opportunity to show their leadership.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Templeton Athletic Director Lindsay Franklin said. “We bring out our continuation kids that are athletes at Eagle Canyon and its a time for them to step up and show some leadership qualities and it gives them a stage to try out some new skills. Then, additionally, we have our unified athletes who get to come out and the best part is they get to play together. It is the most fun thing, these are the days I really, really look forward to. It’s happy, it’s positive but the kids work really hard and they are tired when they are done.”

The event began with opening ceremonies around 9:30 a.m. and closed at noon even though everyone in attendance would have happily played for a few more hours. The county and the local school districts have worked to put on a number of Special Olympic events throughout the year for all different sports leading up to the big regional games at Cuesta College.

Atascadero High School had originally scheduled a track and field event for March 27 but due to the district-wide closing of the schools due to the COVID-19 virus, the event has been postponed until further notice.

Getting through this together, Atascadero