This week, athletes will be competing at Footprint Arena in Phoenix for a chance to join the Special Olympics Arizona basketball team, which is set to participate in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games next June in Orlando, Florida.
Between 50 and 60 athletes from across the state are expected to participate in the tryouts. The coed team is coached by retired Phoenix assistant police chief Mary Roberts, a long-time Special Olympics Arizona supporter.
The tryouts mark one of the first in-person events for Special Olympics athletes in more than 16 months.
The organization is looking to fill a number of teams in preparation for next year’s USA summer games June 5 to 12, which will “unite more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean, and 125,000 spectators during one of the country’s most cherished sporting events,” the organization wrote in a statement.
Special Olympics was started in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of John F. Kennedy, to include people with intellectual disabilities in organized athletic events.
Today, it’s the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, with 5 million participants across 172 countries.
In Arizona, there are over 21,000 athletes participating in sports ranging from soccer to tennis to stand-up paddle boarding.
The purpose of Special Olympics Arizona is to “empower children and adults with intellectual disabilities to live healthy, fulfilling and meaningful lives,” by giving Special Olympians “the opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship,” the organization wrote in a statement.
“By celebrating their dedication and perseverance,” the statement read, “we become champions for a more inclusive world. A world where we all Shine as One.”
Basketball tryouts will be held July 28 and 29 at Footprint Arena, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ 85044.
For more information on Special Olympics Arizona visit www.specialolympicsarizona.org. For more information on SOAZ’s virtual and digital programming, visit the SOAZ connected page at https://specialolympicsarizona.org/soaz-connected-3/.