More than 100 players from 20 teams took part in a Special Olympics Ontario Four Corners basketball tournament in Upper Canada College’s Hewitt Athletic Centre on Feb. 20.
More than 40 UCC boys volunteered to help with the tournament along with teachers and coaches from the participating Greater Toronto Area high schools. A number of other UCC students, staff and faculty members watched the action along with family members of the players, all of whom have varying degrees of intellectual disabilities.
UCC principal Jim Power spoke to the athletes as part of an opening ceremony before the teams, comprised of both boys and girls, took part in three-on-three half-court games. The level of play varied pretty widely, as some kids needed direction as they were just learning the sport while a couple of young ballers impressed onlookers with their behind the back dribbling prowess. But all of the players seemed to be having fun regardless of the game outcomes or their level of expertise.
The Four Corners initiative strives to be a welcoming and fun sport environment where youth have the opportunity to participate in high level competition. All skill and experience level athletes are encouraged to participate as teams are placed in appropriate divisions. The UCC tournament was one of nine regional qualifying competitions being held around Ontario to determine who will take part in the provincial championships in May.
Four Corners began with four basketball tournaments leading to a provincial championship during the 2011-12 school year. Its success has allowed it to grow and also include competitions in bocce, soccer, and track and field. Opportunities were limited prior to this project, with the majority of such athletes either not participating in physical activity at school or training in school clubs with little to no possibility of competition.
This was the first time that any Special Olympics event has been hosted by UCC. It was spearheaded by Upper School geography teacher and character integrator Craig Parkinson ’94 and a friend of his who teaches developmentally delayed students at Essex Public School.
The two previously worked together to get autistic and Down syndrome kids in to UCC to meet with Grade 8 classes. The latest visit was with teacher Jeff Hill ’98’s class two weeks ago. This initiative grew to linking with Special Olympics and proved to be a valuable way of having UCC boys interact with less advantaged fellow students.
Here are some photos from the tournament: