Trip of a Lifetime
The USA Special Olympics
The USA Special Olympics
When the USA’s Special Olympics tennis team traveled to the World Games in early 2019, it brought with it a big piece of Delaware.
Mary Moore, a longtime tennis coach in Delaware and Special Olympics volunteer, was the team’s head coach.
“We were one of 70 countries playing tennis,” said Moore, from Newark, Del. “It was unforgettable."
Moore led a team of 12 tennis players — ages 12 to 55 — and three assistant coaches. The players hailed from all over the United States, with coaches coming from Virginia, Georgia and New York. Overall, the United States had more than 200 athletes competing in the games, with 300 total people traveling for the games. The team did much of its training at the University of Delaware.
Moore said people who aren’t familiar with Special Olympics are often surprised at how talented the athletes are. ADVERTISEMENT They compete with a mix of orange ball, green ball and yellow ball, and the players all have had high levels of success in state competition.
The U.S. team was overseas for three weeks. The tennis play brought about many highlights on the trip, and the relationships the team built were at the top of the list.
“We really hit it off with the Italian team,” said Moore, who began playing tennis at 8 years old and played at the University of Delaware. “We had a match with them and everything was so friendly that we really just kept connecting with them the rest of the trip. We’re even talking about setting up a trip for them to come play us here in the U.S.”
The team also witnessed a transformation in confidence. Moore said that at the start of the trip, the players were quiet and shy. As they became more comfortable each day, they opened up with each other.
“They left the trip thinking, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” she said. “Their entire lives will change because of how much confidence they have in themselves now.”
While tennis was the purpose of the trip, the athletes and coaches came home with experiences far beyond playing.
“Everything from cultural events and dancing to riding camels and spending time on the beach, the experience of seeing a new place and being immersed in a new culture will change their lives for the better,” Moore said.
“I want people to realize how much joy they get through Special Olympics,” she added. “And I want them to know how much fun the players have.”