Ohio University Chillicothe’s Lady Hilltopper softball team held a fundamentals clinic for students from the Ross County Pioneer Center at the OUC Health and Wellness Center Feb. 24, 2017.
The Pioneer Center located in Chillicothe, also known as the Ross County Board of Development Disabilities, provides assistance through programs for infants, preschoolers, school age children and adults with developmental disabilities.
The camp had more than 15 students from the Pioneer Center in attendance who were able to learn and improve upon their skills in softball techniques with OUC players. Stations at the event included group warmup and stretching, throwing, hitting, catching and fielding a ball.
George Beck, OUC Lady Hilltoppers softball coach, explained the impact of the more than three-year partnership with the Pioneer Center.
“Doing for others is what life’s all about,” noted Beck. “My team needs to share in that and participate in that. This experience puts their lives in perspective and we want them to see what a different perspective looks like and how to work together to help other people out.”
By providing an experience that’s almost identical to how the softball team prepares for their games, students at the Pioneer Center gained one-on-one exposure to a sport they rarely get to practice.
“It’s a great experience because we don’t have the equipment to do this type of practice at the school,” said Debbie Kennedy, Special Olympics coordinator and adaptive physical fitness teacher at the Pioneer Center. “The kids get to interact with their peers and they really enjoy coming to this event each year.”
The OUC softball team also gained valuable training through the clinic including understanding how to work with students with developmental disabilities to promoting an inclusive culture through shared physical fitness interests.
Alexis Cooper, a Freshman outfielder and pitcher for the Lady Hilltoppers who’s studying Early Childhood Education, described her experience with the clinic for the first time.
“This has been really great. I love the kids and they’re just awesome,” she said. “It’s really great to be tied into the community and get to have all of them come out and play softball with us.”
When describing her experience with the clinic, Freshman Mary Howard explained, “This [softball clinic] teaches us and them a valuable lesson to work well with others and to show them that we all always need help with something, and that it’s okay to ask for help.”
The partnership between OUC’s softball team and the Pioneer School brings together the two entities twice a year to expose the students at both schools to one another and build stronger bonds.
“We partner in a lot of different projects and with numerous venues, but the students definitely enjoy spending time with the college athletes that are here in the community and learn a little bit from them,” said Patrick McFadden, Director of Communications for the Pioneer Center. “They all really enjoy sports and we like being able to expose them to more [sports], but sometimes they don’t get the technical teachings that someone at this level would get. It’s great for them to get to come up and get to utilize these facilities and spend time with these ladies.”
McFadden described the experience that he sees take place between the students and athletes as one that’s very special and a raw human connection.
“This group, in particular, have had many interactions with one another and it’s cool to see those relationships build,” he noted. “What’s interesting to me is to see the college students and how they interact, because for some of them it’s their first time interacting with someone with a developmental disability. I think with anything, there’s a fear of the unknown so when they can bond over a shared hobby like softball, or a sport in general, then you can see both sides open up. Whether or not they use a cane or a wheelchair melts away, and you see that real, human connection that comes through.”
The next clinic with the Pioneer Center will take place in the fall.
The OUC Lady Hilltoppers will begin their 2017 season in March after returning from pre-season camp in Pensacola, Florida.