by Brianna Pereira
It was 9am on Saturday August 10th at the Cal Bowl Center in Lakewood, the sound of bowling balls pounding the floor as well as the shouts of praise from family and spectators, became almost deafening. Athletes from the Los Angeles County region and as far as San Gabriel Valley region gathered for the Annual Regional Bowling Competition. Split into teams of 5-6, each athlete proudly sported a jersey printed with their city on their backs. Aside from the coaches expressing their appreciation, families, friends, and even the local sheriff department gathered to show their support for the SOSC athletes. With their eyes on the victory, the athletes were persistent to fight through the fatigue and push through as they played 3-4 games back-to-back. Athletes also made sure to not only throw their support to their hardworking teammates, but to their competition as well by extending a hand for a high five to congratulate them on their outstanding performance.
When asked why SOSC coaches love what they do, Alicia Wodson replied, “I enjoy working with the athletes…their drive, their enjoyment of the game, especially when they win, they just light up.” When answering the question of what can be gained from this experience of working with Special Olympics, coach Robert Correa also the father of Devin Correa (SOSC athlete), responded, “Our kids can teach us many, many things, if we allow them to show us how creative they can be.” As a coach and a father, Robert wanted to bring about inclusiveness and “managed to start a football program started in Norwalk and then transferred over to the city of La Mirada, which never had a program for Special Olympic Athletes.”
However, the coaches are not the only ones proud of their athletes, the parents have been most supportive of their children and managed to walk alongside them even when the journey hasn’t always been easy. Elizabeth Guerra, parent of SOSC athlete Adam Guerra, mentioned “Adam is down syndrome and diagnosed in the autistic spectrum, I believe [because of Special Olympics] he has opened up, and been more social.” She continued, “ When there is a change of coaches, Adam regresses because he is so used to the same person, or the same pattern of daily living…that has been one of his main challenges. However, as long as he’s with his group and sees familiar faces he is good.”
After a long day of friendly competition and fired up support from spectators, the Regional Bowling Competition ended with shiny medals placed around the necks of our champions. Congratulations to all of our athletes who demonstrated that they are not defined by their intellectual disability but have used their talents and athletic abilities to show that they are capable of greatness.