Special Olympics Southern California athletes and supporters were out in full force Saturday as the 2018 Fall Games kicked off in Fountain Valley.
Here’s what a few of them had to say on Day 1:
“I began to love softball when I was young and watched my brother play baseball. I love it! It’s so much fun. The whole experience of being here at the games and on the field makes me smile.”
-Nannette Tagliavia, softball athlete
“I’m a shortstop. It’s fun. When I’m playing I feel like a big leaguer. When the game starts I put my game face on. I like getting dirty. A dirty jersey lets me know I worked hard while playing.”
–Barry Cunningham, softball athlete for the Poway Padres of San Diego County
“Playing soccer at the games is so much fun and it’s all about having fun and being a good sport. I like to win but there’s no point in getting mad when you lose or make mistakes, it’s about having fun. My favorite memory is scoring my first goal at the Chino Hills games. It was the best feeling ever.”
-Julian Rodriguez, soccer athlete
“The games have given Jenna confidence, kept her in better shape, improved her mental focus and helped her socially with making friends.
“Her favorite sports are soccer and softball but she likes swimming, too. Her father is around she’s doing something she likes and is grateful for the Special Olympics organization.”
-Tina Corona and Christian Ramirez, parents of soccer athlete Jenna Ramirez
“SOSC teaches [us] it’s OK to be who you are. The best thing we do: We tell people in schools the R-Word is unacceptable.”
–Athlete Stephanie Hardy on the values she’s learned through Special Olympics and message she spreads.
“One of the best things that can happen is when a player improves or has a new success. Today something special happened. We had an athlete named Noah who was able to keep his helmet on in the batter’s box and actually got on base! The Special Olympics are great because they give the athletes a chance for normalcy and supports social interaction.”
–Eric McMahan, Special Olympics softball coach for seven years
“Tennis is my favorite sport and my favorite part of the game is returning the ball. I’ve won medals is both singles and doubles but like playing singles more.”
–Dakota Shibley, tennis athlete
“Once they’re taught, they learn very quickly and are very good.”
–Ian Ramos, softball coach for the South Central Avengers, who credits his athletes for teaching him the true meaning of respect and commitment to one another
“We just love supporting Special Olympics, feeding off [the athletes’] energy and giving them as much as they give us. Working with 2- to 7-year-olds, it’s a different energy.”
–Brandon Young, volunteer with Young Athletes
“Special Olympics means everything – it means family, friends, progression. Seeing [the athletes] progress over time is really heartwarming.”
–Elizabeth Estrada, Long Beach volleyball coach for five years