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Special Olympics Basketball Tournament Inspires Athletes and Communities Alike

UIndy Sport Management students planned and hosted the Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament on April 7.

Special Olympics Indiana and Sport Management students at the University of Indianapolis partnered together on April 7 to put on the Special Olympics State Youth Basketball Tournament at Nicoson Hall and the Ruth Lilly Fitness Center.

An athlete bouncing a ball during the Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament on April 7.
Teams from all over the state competed in the Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament

It’s the only youth basketball tournament for Special Olympics youth in the world. The event is an extraordinary celebration of athleticism, inclusion, and unity, bringing together athletes of all abilities to showcase their talents on the basketball court.

The tournament, planned and implemented collaboratively between UIndy Sport Management students and Special Olympics Indiana, featured teams from across the state composed of dedicated athletes with intellectual disabilities who have been training tirelessly for the moment. Their determination, passion, and sportsmanship exemplified the true spirit of the Special Olympics movement.

In all, more than 125 athletes participated, alongside more than 200 volunteers for the event, many of them from the UIndy Sports Management Program, like Emma Beasley.

Volunteers cheer on the athletes
UIndy students volunteered to cheer for both teams

“I’m excited to interact with the kids,” said Beasley. “I helped out with this event last year and it was so much fun getting to know some of the kids and getting to work with them.”

In addition to the thrilling basketball action, the tournament included various activities and entertainment for spectators of all ages. Attendees had a day filled with excitement, camaraderie, and heartfelt moments as they cheered on the athletes and witnessed their remarkable achievements.

Dr. Jennifer VanSickle, chair of the Kinesiology, Health & Sport Sciences department at the University of Indianapolis, teaches the class which plans the tournament each year.

Other fun activities were planned for athletes when not competing
Fun activities were planned for athletes when they weren’t playing

“When we see one of the Special Olympics athletes get a basket, and then the crowd roars, they’re excited, and they’re high-fiving people – it’s so much fun that way,” VanSickle said. “Then for me as a professor, to see our students and all the planning and work they put into it, whether things go well or when things don’t go well, and they have to make a decision and that decision is the right one, to see them mature and grow through this experience and then be ready for their careers is extremely rewarding for me.”

The Special Olympics Basketball Tournament serves as a reminder of the power of sports to break down barriers, create opportunities, and unite communities. It is a testament to the unwavering determination and resilience of individuals with intellectual disabilities, who continue to defy stereotypes and redefine perceptions through their participation in athletics.

Special Olympics Indiana is a nonprofit organization that is part of the global Special Olympics movement, created by the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation for the benefit of persons with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1969, Special Olympics Indiana is one of 51 Special Olympics affiliates in North America. The program has grown to include more than 19,000 athletes and Unified partners with the support of more than 10,000 coaches and volunteers throughout the state.

An athlete takes a shot at the Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament on April 7.