Little League Challenger
I was never very good at sports. I loved them, though, and signed up for every thing: basketball, softball, field hockey, lacrosse… back when we signed up for sports and were spared the disgrace of try outs. It was common knowledge I’d be useless with a ball but, shoot, I could yell and cheer louder than anyone else on the team. So I did, and instead of runs, baskets, goals, and things that actually won games, I made them very noisy. And I did get a few Spirit Awards…
When I read about the Challenger Division, a team of mentally and physically challenged children playing baseball with the help of volunteers, I was touched. Here is an opportunity, I thought, to reward spirit and teamwork as the end result of a game: a laudable, often overlooked goal, and I bet I’m not the first cheerleader to agree.
What they are: “…a program that enables mentally and physically-challenged youth to enjoy the full benefits of Little League participation in an athletic environment structured to their abilities.
“The philosophy is to give all children the chance to play baseball in a setting that is fun and supportive. A big part of this, for the players, is to experience the sense of belonging that comes with being a part of a team, as well as the spirit of friendly competition through games with other Challenger teams from neighboring towns. In Challenger baseball, scores don’t count - everybody is a winner. It’s all about acceptance, self-esteem, positive learning experiences and team spirit.”
Who may participate: “The Challenger Program is open to all challenged players 5 through 18 years of age. Players must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to all games and practices”
How it works: “Since the majority of Challenger players require support to successfully participate, they are paired up with volunteer ‘buddies’ who become their personal guides. The players need varying degrees of support, but whenever possible, they are encouraged to be independent, with ‘buddies’ close by to lend a hand, when necessary.”
Who they are: Head coaches from each town “lead a team of volunteer managers and coaches who provide positive and constructive direction tempered with patience and understanding.” (http://www.dybs.org)
How you can help: Anyone interested in coaching or being a high-school buddy should click on the “Challenger” tab in the relevant website for contact information, or call the number listed on the site.