The Shenandoah Region of Virginia Special Olympics and James Madison Athletics continued a long lasting relationship as the JMU volleyball team volunteered at the Shenandoah Region Volleyball and Soccer Tournament on Sunday, September 30th at Turner Ashby High School. This year marked the 12th year that the event has been held and the fifth year that student-athletes from JMU have participated.
A total of eight different areas were represented at the tournaments this past weekend including teams from Blacksburg, Winchester, and parts of Northern Virginia. Based on skill level and ability, the athletes were broken up into four different events consisting of traditional volleyball, modified volleyball, volleyball skills, or 5-on-5 soccer. Regarding the volleyball tournament, there were four teams represented for each of the three levels of competition and one gold medal winner from each of the groups.
The volleyball team made its mark by refereeing the games, keeping scores and stats, and cheering on all of the athletes that were participating. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Alyssa Hall commented on her great experience interacting with the athletes, saying, "It's a wonderful experience because we get to go out there and not only referee the games, but also cheer them on. It's awesome getting to talk to the athletes and share our passion of volleyball with them. It's cool to see how serious and competitive they are about the game."
The impact that the student-athletes have on Special Olympics events resonates throughout the Harrisonburg community. Daniel Leake, who is the Shenandoah Region Director for Virginia Special Olympics, said, "Our athletes absolutely love the JMU student-athletes and the JMU community, and they love being a part of the college atmosphere." JMU Athletics and Special Olympics collaborate on multiple events every academic year, and both groups seem to benefit from the interactions as the athletes tend to develop lasting relationships.
Sophomore outside hitter Martha Stewart said that volunteering at events such as this "puts into perspective how fun volleyball is no matter what level you play at, and how great of an opportunity it is to go out there and play every day."
The Virginia Special Olympics athletes share a passion for all sports and are constantly participating in sporting events and tournaments around the state. To volunteer for an event, or view the calendar of upcoming events visit their website and "Be a Fan."