LA VERNE, Calif. — The University of La Verne softball team partnered with the Pomona Valley Special Olympics to host a clinic at Campus West.
With the athletes coming off an incredible World Games experience this summer and softball having hosted a clinic two years ago for 60 athletes from all around southern California, this was an obvious fit for a partnership between Leopard softball and the Pomona Valley Wildcats.
The Leopards hosted a four-hour softball clinic and the Wildcats were introduced to the state-of-the-art Campus West facilities. In addition to the clinic, the Wildcats have been practicing weekly at the softball field and La Verne student-athletes and coaches have been a regular presence at the training sessions.
"My goal two years ago was to have the Wildcats share our field," La Verne head coach Julie Smith said. "I am happy that goal came to fruition as these athletes are incredible people and the coaching staff even better."
The Leopards hope continue building on the relationship. "This builds community and bridges the gaps of diversity," Smith said. "We are all better people by serving others. This is a special way to give back, being able to provide first class facilities for a group that works hard and is committed to their sport."
For several years now the Leos softball team have been the Special Olympics softball team. Walking on to the field this year, we had no idea what to expect. Every year, it is a whole new experience with all new players and some who return. As we welcomed all the athletes on the field, we saw nothing but smiles and excited faces. They all were so eager to learn and show us what they already knew.
The best part was that it didn't matter how hot it was, how much work we did or what we asked of them, they wanted to be there and do well. They proved how much hard work and commitment really makes the player. Everything from their effort to their technique was inspiring. Of course on that hot day, running was the unfavored station, but they gave it all their effort anyway. A few of the athletes were inspiring when they were practicing, showing to never give up on the play or yourself and that it is okay to make a mistake as long as you learn from it and know that you are going to get better.
Considering I have never worked with anyone who has special needs, I was not sure what to expect at all. At first, I was unsure how to act or even what to say. As the day went on, an instant connection with one of the younger participants was made. Emily was quiet and only stuck by one of her other special needs friends. But when I began to speak with her, it's like every word she was previously holding back flew out. From the few words she did speak, I could just sense her excitement. Her big smile made it even more evident. I only helped Emily throughout some parts of the day, but the connection I made with her was so fulfilling. Because of her, and the other participants as well, I was able to leave the field feeling so rewarded.