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The Best Part of the Game is the Opportunity to Play

By Matt Comstock on February 12, 2020 hst Print

In response to the realization that our school/league was not providing a platform for ALL students to enjoy the experience of representing their school and community in sports, we decided to create an annual event where students with disabilities from each of our schools could compete and be the “stars” representing their school.

The Central Buckeye Conference (CBC) Cup was organized as a “field day” type of event, whereby participating athletes were allowed to choose up to three events in which they would compete. The event options were the 100-meter Dash, Bean Bag Toss, Home Run Derby, Soccer Goal Kick, Football Toss, Frisbee Toss and Basketball Hot Shot.

All events had rules/scoring that could be adapted to meet the needs of the athlete. Athletic directors from each school in the conference served as the head of each event.

“The CBC Cup was by far the most rewarding event I have had the pleasure of being a part of in my career,” said Jeff Courter, athletic director at Indian Lake High School in Logan County, Ohio. Each athlete was supported by a peer from his or her home school and was known as “coach.” The costs of lunches, t-shirts and awards were covered by sponsors from local businesses.

Each athlete received a medal for the day, but we also kept score and recognized the athletes who performed in the top three of each event. On the back of the T-shirts, we printed the theme of the event: “The best part of the game . . . is the opportunity to play.”

After months of planning, the day finally arrived last spring. Athletes and coaches loaded buses to head to Bellefontaine High School. Most were treated like state champions by their classmates with “clap-outs” through the halls and police escorts for their buses.

Unfortunately, heavy rain forced us to move to our alternative plan. “Plan B” was put into action and the event was moved from the stadium (outside) to our gyms (inside). The Frisbee toss changed from a distance event to an accuracy event. The Home Run Derby stadium we had created turned into half of our Auxiliary Gym and how high up the wall a ball was hit.

The 100-meter Dash turned into a 40-meter sprint down a back hallway. And through it all, NOT ONE of our athletes complained. They were there to represent their school and to show the fans what they could do – AND THEY DELIVERED.

“I just love sports; I love competition,” said Thomas Marshal, a sophomore at Shawnee High School in Springfield, Ohio, who competed in the 100-meter Dash, Frisbee Toss and Bean Bag Toss.

The highlight of the day was our Opening Ceremony, which we called the “Parade of Teams.” Each school entered the gym through a spirit tunnel composed of cheerleaders and color guard members. With walkout music, each school waved its school flags and was introduced to the crowd. It was AWESOME!

After the opening ceremony, events started – with both gyms packed – and there were three “Event Pods” of about 25 minutes each. After each pod, we announced that it was time to move on to the next event. The coaches made sure that their athletes got to the right spot.

After lunch, the day concluded with an awards ceremony. Athletes from each school were announced and awarded their medal by their personal coach. The top three from each event were recognized by the public-address announcer. Finally, one athlete from each school was awarded a plaque as the recipient of the “Barrett Fitzsimmons Sportsmanship Award.”

“We had three of our athletes wear their medals every day to school after the event,” said Craig Eier, athletic director at Tecumseh High School in New Carlisle, Ohio.

“My favorite part of the day was watching the CBC athletic directors conduct the various competitions,” said Mike Ludlow, CBC commissioner. “It was great to see them have the opportunity to interact with the participants and student coaches. The ADs did a terrific job setting the proper tone for the events, and their efforts with the students were rewarding to watch. The ADs deserve huge congratulations for conceiving, organizing and carrying out the CBC Cup Games. It was a fantastic day.”

Planning has started for the second annual CBC Cup, which will take place in May of 2020 at London (Ohio) High School.