Special Olympics Soccer Tournament Promotes Community, Friendship

Between youth soccer and balls being kicked around, soccer was everywhere at Marshall on Saturday. But some of the most spirited games on display at the stadium field were those of the Special Olympics. 

Special Olympics is an international organization that provides both children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities the opportunity to play sports like soccer and basketball. Participants engage in physical activities to develop long-lasting friendships with other athletes and volunteers.

“I love building community at Marshall High School,” sponsor and coach Sarah Espanol said. “There are many times on the field I can’t tell who is who. We’re all together. It’s a unified team, meaning people with and without disabilities playing together and having fun.”

Members said Marshall Special Olympics emphasizes community, which was evident as athletes and student volunteers played together. 

“It helps to develop a community because everyone that is passionate about the same thing can play together despite their differences,” Special Olympics leadership member Tatum Scarborough said.  

Perhaps the most notable thing about Marshall’s two games against Annandale was the sportsmanship from both sides. Everyone’s accomplishments were celebrated, regardless of the score.

“This is the most important club at Marshall highschool because we bring inclusion for everybody,” Espanol said. “We let everybody into our world.

Student volunteer and junior Zena Soufi also said she believes in the club’s importance.

“Being able to have a Special Olympics team means that everyone with and without disabilities can play together, which was what they [the Special Olympics athletes] wanted in the first place,” Soufi said. 

Most importantly, the day was about the Special Olympians who were clearly enjoying their time.

“The team has been great,” Special Olympics athlete Evan Manion said. “It’s built a lot of confidence and courage [for me].