The Edmond Sun
More than 800 arms waved in the air Tuesday trying to connect with the three volleyballs bouncing about the gymnasium at West Field Elementary School.
The children had just learned how team members of the nation’s 2010 Sitting Volleyball Team play volleyball in a sitting position rather than standing.
West Field students drew welcome posters for each of the more than 500 athletes from 23 countries who will attend the 2010 Sitting Volleyball Worlds this summer. In return the team members gave each student a pass for one of the games this summer.
“During Guidance lessons each student was given a country a team member belongs to who is attending the games,” said Leslie Singleton, counselor.
Students decorated posters with flags of the country after looking up each country in an atlas as well as on a map.
The University of Central Oklahoma is a training site for the resident athletes as well as the host for the July 10-18 event at the Edmond campus. The 2010 Sitting Volleyball Worlds also will stand as a qualifier for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
Students were told to work toward their dream by team member Ed O’Neil from Amhurst, Mass.
“Once you determine your goal, keep moving in that direction until you make your dream,” O’Neil said. He lost his left leg from his knee down in a roadside bomb while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Practicing with the team for a year, O’Neil told the students although the bomb changed his life and his goals, his friend had lost his life when the same bomb detonated.
All four of the UCO students attending the assembly left their homes to practice with the team in Edmond.
Michelle Gerlosky moved from Babson Park, Fla., a year ago to be on the team and is working on her master’s degree in biology.
Nichole Millage has been on the team for three years moving from Champaign, Ill., to go to school at UCO and be on the team. “My team won a silver medal in Beijing,” Millage told the students.
Team member Eric Duda, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., moved to Edmond five years ago, and he is also the assistant coach for the Women’s Volleyball team.
“Being part of the Sitting Volleyball Team enables these university students to compete at an elite level and travel the world,” said UCO representative Ryan Wilson.
Second-graders Jakob Paugh, Sophie Mirabile and Noah Hatcher all agreed that learning how the sitting volleyball players played the game was the most interesting part of the assembly.
“I have never really played volleyball,” Jakob said, “but I want to learn how now.”
UCO’s involvement with the U.S. Paralympics has grown since it first became a Paralympic Training Site in 2005. In addition to hosting the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Sitting Volleyball teams, the university also serves as the home for Paralympic athletes in archery, track & field and rowing.
U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, works to promote excellence in the lives of persons with physical disabilities. For more information, visit the U.S. Paralympics Web site at usparalympics.org.