The Lacoka Special Olympics Softball team is a group of heavy hitters who are out to compete and have fun.
The elite group of athletes met for a practice on Tuesday night at one of Lacombe’s diamonds to make final preparations before they attend their last tournament of the season later this month.
Head Coach Dwayne Campbell and chairperson of Lacombe and District Special Olympics said the team of 15 players covers a wide range of ages and skill levels.
“We do bowling and swimming through the winter, so we started softball in May,” said Campbell.
Over the two months, the team meets once a week for a practice and then attends some tournaments playing in the novice category.
“With our group, we have some athletes that can play at a higher level, but they all blend together,” said Campbell. “We have a pretty good team with this group.”
The team plays a modified version of slo-pitch that ensures fun, fitness and friends. When the team is playing the field, spotters join the athletes to coach directly on the field and to be close by for safety.
“It’s all a group of people that they know,” explained Campbell. “It’s their social group. It’s really about having fun and doing your best. We have quite a range of ages and we are always looking for more players.
“When we go to a tournament, everybody plays. We move the athletes around so everybody bats each inning. They keep score but at the same time, it’s a little modified. You take four pitches and then if you don’t see a hit, you can take a walk or hit off the tee.”
The group is now sporting brand new canary yellow jerseys and branded under the umbrella of Lacoka, tapping into the regional duality of the players — some who are from Lacombe, others from Ponoka.
“Our team is pretty much half and half,” said Campbell. “We were kind of thinking that we needed a new jersey, so we were thinking how do you get a team name? And do we go with Lacoka because we have athletes from both towns?”
The name was solidified and the team will be wearing their new jerseys down in Olds for the upcoming one-day tournament.
“We will play two games,” explained Campbell. “Everything you do, you’ve got to have a meal and a dance. That’s a big part of it along with the competition. It’s the social aspect with friends from this town and other towns. We get together, eat, dance and have a good time.”
Colin Strugnell has been playing with the team since 2011. As one of the main pitchers on the roster, Strugnell said he likes softball because it allows him to flex his athletic abilities.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Over the years we’ve improved a lot and have learned to hit better.”
“We’ve been doing ball now for four years and every year everyone is getting a little bit more comfortable as far as skills,” he said. “Their skills are really coming along and you just kind of adapt it to everyone’s interests and ability.”
In the end, it doesn’t matter how many runs are scored or how many pop flies are caught out in the field. What really matters is that the athletes are having fun.
The team will be competing in one last tournament in Olds on July 18th.
Special Olympics Alberta was initiated to provide support in over 100 communities throughout the province. Special Olympics Lacombe and District started around 10 years ago and offers five-pin bowling and swimming in the winter season, and bocce ball and softball in the summer season.
For more information about Special Olympics Lacombe and District visit www.specialolympics.ab.ca/lacombe or email firstname.lastname@example.org.