Soccer Programs Aid Special Olympics Tournament
Oct. 30, 2004
For the second-straight year, the University of Memphis men's and women's soccer teams volunteered their time and facilities to host the 16th annual McKesson Special Olympics Soccer Tournament on Saturday at Echles Field.
Teams from around the area gathered together for a day with nothing but soccer and where everyone was a winner. The Tigers men's and women's teams spent the day offering tips, refereeing and cheering on the teams.
"It's a good opportunity for the men's and women's teams to work for special athletes," said Memphis men's soccer head coach Richie Grant. "It's also a great opportunity for our teams to give back to the community. These young athletes have such a joy for playing soccer, and our players are an example to them."
Memphis hosted the tournament for the first time last fall. After hearing about the Special World Olympics being held in Dublin, Ireland, Grant, an Ireland native, made a few calls to see if the U of M program could assist with the cause locally. Along with the fall tournament, the Tigers also host a soccer coaching clinic in the spring with the help of Colaiste Ide, an Irish team that makes a stop to play Memphis every year.
"The facility is terrific here," said the West Tennessee Director of Special Olympics Gordon Brigman. "The youth know they are out here with the University's soccer teams. Each of the players is asked to connect with at least one of the athletes during the tournament."
Senior midfielder John Reilly can personally relate to the youth. The Ireland native has an eleven-year-old cousin back home with intellectual disabilities. Reilly said he is especially close to his cousin and working with the children like her in the tournament means a lot to him.
"I'm used to dealing with the kids," Reilly said. "For them, it's like our team's gameday. They have fun being out here, and it's good for us to be here making their day as special as we can."
Judy Caulk, the mother of participating athlete Matthew Caulk who also played in last year's event, said her son always enjoys the team spirit and excitement felt by playing in the tournament.
"The youth have a great time here being part of a team," Judy Caulk said. "Matthew has other siblings who do the same type of things, and this gives him a chance to compete like they do."