The Moline High School Maroons basketball team was thrilled to make it to the 2015 Special Olympics Illinois State Basketball Tournament in their first year of playing.
The high school has had Special Olympics athletes competing in other sports in the past, but this was the first year that basketball was offered. When Lyman and special education teacher Jerilyn Hocker took over as Special Olympics coaches this school year, they looked to expand the sports offered.
“We saw the option for basketball and asked the kids if they were interested,” said Lyman, who is a paraprofessional in Hocker’s classroom. “They all said ‘Yes, we want to play.’ From that day forward, the kids were always stopping by our classroom and asking when practice would start.”
Because they are the only Special Olympics basketball team in the Quad Cities, Lyman said they had to travel a lot to play games, making trips to Monmouth and Canton for their Holiday Hoops Tournament. “We won first place in Canton,” said Hocker. “They put on a great, well-organized tournament.”
When the 7-man team won at their district competition, “the boys said they were bringing it back for the whole school,” said Lyman. “They really are all about representing the school, not just themselves.”
Tim Millard, #5, said he enjoyed playing basketball. “We practiced hard getting things done. We tried our best (at state).”
Nathaniel Littrell agreed. “It was hard, but we had fun.”
It’s that attitude that inspires Hocker and Lyman. “These guys just have great attitudes whether they win or not,” said Lyman. As a teacher, coach or parent, you couldn’t ask for more from our athletes.
By Michele Evans, Director of Communications