Topic: Why Volunteer?
Everyone leads busy lives. Whether you’re working, attending school or taking care of a family — it doesn’t leave much time for volunteer activities. Carving out time from your busy schedule each week for a worthy cause, however, can be a truly rewarding experience.
Several years ago, Special Olympics of Montgomery County contacted MCTA, to join forces to start a tennis program in the county. Previously, tennis had not been a Special Olympics sport in the county. I happened to be looking for a volunteer opportunity to complete the licensing requirements for my job when I was asked to help start up the program. While I gladly accepted, truth be told, I had no experience teaching athletes with developmental disabilities. I quickly learned there are two simple keys that apply to teaching any athlete in any sport, regardless of background or skill level. They are patience and positive reinforcement. The athletes who participate in the program simply enjoy being out on the court. They share an infectious smile whether they place a winner down the line or miss a shot completely. In the years I’ve been running the program, I’ve met some incredible Special Olympic athletes who have given me a whole new perspective on life. The lifeblood of the program, however, is always the volunteers. And I’ve been honored to work with a plethora of incredible men, women, boys and girls. They don’t come out because they want recognition or SSL hours, they come out to be a part of an amazing experience.
On June 30th, I had the privilege of coaching our tennis team at the State Games at Green Spring Racket Club in Lutherville, MD. It is amazing to watch the camaraderie and spirit of all the players. Everyone knows each other across counties that participate, and they simply want to see the athletes do well. But what always amazes me the most is the sportsmanship exhibited. I witnessed one athlete call her opponent to the net when she saw he was getting frustrated, give him a hug, and tell him he was playing great. I also saw rival players not only shake hands, but give each hugs after each match, tell each other how great everyone played, and actually mean it. And the volunteers are the ones who make it all come together.
Lastly, don’t forget that Special Olympics Tennis is only one program that MCTA and the Montgomery County Tennis and Education Foundation (MCTEF) oversee. Volunteers are always welcome, whether it’s for the 10 and under play dates, the after school tennis program, tournaments, leagues, etc. Please contact Greg Overkamp (firstname.lastname@example.org), Carol Cohen (email@example.com) or Paul Sommers (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get involved!