We all have much to learn from our Special Olympics athletes
Let me start by saying that I believe competition is healthy. Competition is simply ingrained into our DNA from the time we had to compete simply for survival. Although we like to think we have evolved into a kinder, gentler breed of human, it really only takes a few minutes on Facebook during Cat/Griz week, or any rivalry really, to realize that sometimes we not only let our competitiveness get the better of us, but in some cases we have let it destroy friendships and even family ties. There are many who share a last name with another with whom they have refused to speak over the past week or so because the Cats beat the Griz and one of them went over the line with a comment.
In juxtaposition to the heated rivalry of the Cat/Griz game is the State Special Olympics Basketball Tournament that wrapped up in Butte the week before. Yes, the games were competitive and the athletes played to win, but that didn't seem like that was the reason they were playing. Heather Raymond is a Special Olympian and a good friend of mine. Heather plays for the Miners with her friends Shelby, Pam and Collin, "My favorite thing is hanging out with my friends," Heather said adding that she also loves the carnival. Not once did Heather talk about how many baskets she made. She didn't even really mention whether her Miners won or lost. What she DID bring up several times, and even in a letter that she wrote after our conversation, is her admiration for other Special Olympic basketball teams, particularly the Butte Rats. "32 is an amazing and the greatest friend ever," Heather wrote about a rival teammate. Number 32 for the Butte Rats, as it turns out is Jaymen "Hollywood" Foley who is not only a very talented athlete but also one of the biggest supporters of the Montana Tech Orediggers that you will ever find. Hollywood has been on the radio before to promote the Special Olympics, but with her it is the same story. She talks about the friendships. She talks about which teams will be playing. But most of all, she talks about the frieindships that she has made as a result of the competition. And no matter the Special Olympian you are talking to, it always comes back to friendship.
As a society, we can really learn a lot from our Special Olympians. We need to think a little less about how we can get ourselves ahead. We need to think about our friendships. How many friends do we have? As Heather and Hollywood will tell us, this is the only final score that matters.