Special Olympics basketball season off to strong start


Lizzie Patel, Reporter

The energy and excitement of LT athletes took the upstairs SC gym by storm in the opening game for the Special Olympics Basketball season. Cheers erupted from the fan section as the white team athletes fought for every point in an intense game against Glenbard South on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

“When we lost [to Glenbard South] it was close, and we tried our best,” white team player Cassie Psenicka ‘21 said. “We weren’t mad. It’s different [from other LT sports teams]. We cheer the other team if they win, and if the other team falls over we’ll pick them up. It’s what we do.”

The team reminds each other that doing their best, not winning, is what matters in their pregame ritual, Psenicka said. Their goal is to always support each other and play fairly with as much intensity as they can.

“Our main goals are to have fun try hard and have a good time,” head coach Emma Colangelo said. “The kids leave everything on the court.”

The Special Olympics Basketball department is divided into three 12-to-13 player teams: gold, blue and white. The teams are now divided by ability level [white, blue, and gold respectively] instead of by age. This change began last year to make competition better and more fair, Colangelo said.

“Basketball gives them a purpose,” Colangelo said. “Before [the Special Olympics team], there was no place for these kids to play sports where it would be fair and they would get playing time. This team is everything.”

Being a part of the Special Olympics basketball teams completely changes athletes’ LT experiences for the better, Psenicka ‘21 said.

“[Basketball] has made me more confident,” she said. “It has helped me build new skills and friendships. It has helped me through so much more than I could ever imagine.”

Psenicka, like all of her teammates, has faced challenges. For example, she was told by doctors as a child that she would never be able to talk to anyone, she said.

“Ever since I started basketball, I was talking more and more,” Psenicka said. “I started talking to my teammates, and I made new friends. [The team] has gotten me more motivated to keep on going no matter what.”

Athletes think of themselves as friends first and teammates second, Psenicka said. They share stories with each other, laugh, bond as a team, support each other and, most importantly, do not judge anyone.

“You don’t get glory from victories,” Psenicka said. “You get your glory from your mistakes and people’s support and trying your best.”

Every player enjoys when LT students come and support them, Psenicka said. Any additional fan in the crowd electrifies the players even more.

“Go watch,” Colangelo said. “It’s fun to watch. There is a misrepresentation of Special Olympics that it’s not good basketball to watch, but that’s not the case. I feel like you learn more from a Special Olympics basketball game than you do from a regular basketball game because you get to see the perseverance of the kids.”

The Special Olympics team takes on the combined Oswego and Oswego East (district 308) Thursday, Dec. 12 in the South Campus Gym at 6 p.m. as they work toward a chance at state.