Catoosa Special Olympics receives invite to 2014 USA Games
Mark Friedel Staff Reporter
The Catoosa Special Olympics team has been invited to participate in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games June 14-22 in Princeton, NJ.
Catoosa Special Olympics teacher and coach Shelly Gibson, along with Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Strippy Biggers, have been chosen to coach the team in the flag football event in the USA Games.
“I am honored to have been chosen to coach these incredible kids,” said Gibson. “These athletes work hard all day everyday in everything they do and deserve all the praise and respect for this opportunity.”
Gibson coaches the team in different training activities everyday.
Because Biggers lives in Oklahoma City, he plans to practice with the athletes at least once a month until the Special Olympic games.
Biggers retired from coaching after 32 years as a football coach at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City. He said he has worked in special education since the early ‘70s.
“Coaching Special Olympics is fun. Ninety-nine percent of the athletes want to be out there participating,” said Biggers. “They’re just as competitive as the professional players.”
Gibson said in her experience, the athletes show sportsmanship no matter what.
“Not all of the athletes in this group are in Special Olympics. This year, Special Olympics Oklahoma is focusing on the Unified Partners aspect, and we have brought in four outside students to participate.”
The unified partners are regular students who work with the athletes, playing side by side, compete with them, eat lunch with them, they are friends with them, said Gibson.
This year’s state Special Olympics motto is “Individually we are different, but together we are one.”
“To me, the motto says it all. Our partners is what this team is all about,” said Gibson.
“It’s about them being accepted in the building as one of the other students. It’s about being involved in the high school and having those same experiences as every other student. It’s about being accepted.”
The Catoosa Special Olympics team is made up of nine high school students.
When the team arrives in New Jersey, the athletes will participate in two scrimmages where they will be rated and place in a division where all of the teams are equally matched.
Gibson said 12 total unified flag football teams from across the country, were selected to compete in the USA Games.
“We are very proud of our Special Olympics program,” said Rick Kibbe, Catoosa Public Schools superintendent.
“The teachers, coaches, volunteers and of course the wonderful athletes work very hard to make this program meaningful and rewarding for themselves, their families and the Catoosa community.”