By Domenic F. Fraboni
The student physical therapists (SPT’s) are at it again! They took their mark, got set, and have hit the ground sprinting into the track and field season with the Rochester Flyers Special Olympic track team. This Monday, April 11th, a group of former track and field athletes and other physical therapy students began the grind to coach the Flyers to a championship in the state games in late June. After a successful season of coaching with the Special Olympic basketball program, some of the same students and a handful of other aspiring physical therapists will be coaching the Flyers in events such as the 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1500 meter, high jump, long jump and shot put with the hope of claiming a plethora of gold, silver, and bronze at the state games this June. There are events that are also meant for those with physical and functional disabilities. These events include a softball throw, walking events, wheelchair events, and power-chair races.
On April 11th, seven PT students were present for the inaugural practice. The day was spent sorting the athletes into their intended events; soon after, the training commenced. The SPT’s split up into their areas of expertise (even if that area was cheering on the Special Olympic Athletes) and got to work. First year student Ryan Murphy, who spent the majority of practice helping the shot put throwers, gave me an idea of how he felt about his coaching experience. “The athletes we worked with absolutely had a blast, whether they threw it 2 feet or 20 feet. It also was challenging to me. As someone so focused on movement and form, I had to find creative ways to get their athletes to throw [the shot] with correct mechanics and do so safely.” Ryan’s testimony echoes that of many others who have helped out with Special Olympics. This is an opportunity that allows future physical therapists to do something they love by coaching sport while combining that with their career passion. In the meantime, why not win a few gold medals while they’re at it.
Moving forward, I’ve heard that the SPT’s are using their position with Special Olympics to influence nation-wide involvement. (I am actually on the student project committee planning the event, so it will be happening.) At the moment I am unable to give in depth details but there may be a Special Olympics event in the works for this year’s National Student Conclave (NSC) in Miami, put on by the American
Physical Therapy Association. Through this event at NSC, we hope to bring the joy and growth that comes from Special Olympic involvement to all PT students around the country. Stay tuned for more information on this event in the future.
Yes, this may just be the second season this year that the physical therapy program has helped coach the Rochester Flyers. However, you can count that they will be ever present in seasons to come for the other Rochester sponsored sports: bocce, golf, flag football, bowling, floor hockey and swimming. If anyone out there were to have any interest in getting involved themselves, check out the Rochester Flyer's website or feel free to contact me directly at Fraboni.firstname.lastname@example.org. The races of the track season may only last until late June, but the race for Special Olympics to provide opportunities for their athletes is a lifelong one. The Mayo SPT’s are grabbing the baton and aiding in that race.
I need to give a big thanks to the Rochester Flyers for allowing us to be so involved in their programs, and I will extend that thank you to all of my incredible classmates that are also so willing to get involved. I also need to send another thank you to Haylie Bernacki for helping me get involved with Special Olympics Miami to start planning the event at NSC.
About the Author:
In my undergraduate education at Concordia College, I was fortunate enough to get involved with Special Olympics. As a first year SPT at the Mayo School of Health Sciences, I’ve been lucky now to have many classmates also willing to get involved. Thank you for letting me share this post with you as one of the Diversity in Education Blog’s student blog managers. To take a look at another Special Olympic post click the link below: