Clarksville, Ark.-The University of the Ozarks women's basketball team hosted a regional Special Olympics basketball tournament in Mabee Gymnasium on Saturday, March 3.
Known as the Unified Basketball Masters Tournament, the event brings in Special Olympians from across Crawford, Franklin, Sebastian, and Johnson counties and allows them to showcase their skills on the court. The Lady Eagles have hosted the event annually since Head Coach Carl Ramsey’s arrival on campus.
“Jerry Bridges is in charge of the Special Olympics program locally, and he and I went to college together here at Ozarks,” explained Ramsey. “He called me a few years ago and asked me if I’d want to take this on, and now here we are in our third year.”
The tournament gives the Lady Eagles a chance to step back and enjoy the game they love in a different way than they are accustomed. Players participate in everything from running the clock and scoreboard to hitting the court with the Olympians as buddies.
“What I like about our players helping is that it gives them a chance to give back to the game. Sometimes we take for granted some blessings that we have and some abilities we have, but when you work with them and see the other side of it, it gives you the chance to just give something back to the game,” said Ramsey.
While the Olympians are the ones who leave the court with the trophies at the end of the day, Ramsey and the Lady Eagles can’t help feeling like winners after experiencing the passion, joy, and smiles of the Special Olympic athletes year after year.
“It’s hard to be involved with something like that and not walk away feeling good,” said Ramsey.
By Emily Black, Student Assistant For Sports Information