On Monday, December 4, Special Olympics Iowa athletes got an opportunity to play during the halftime festivities of Iowa State University’s Men’s Basketball game against Northern Illinois.

Athletes from Johnston team “The Johnston Outlaws” scrimmaged each other on the full court in Hilton Coliseum, while they were cheered on by an excited student section.  The scrimmage game was even announced by the ISU game announcers.

The Johnston Outlaws began playing together as a Special Olympic basketball team in 1996. Over the years the delegation has grown to form two teams. They have gone to state competitions 18 times and have come home with 10 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze metals between the two teams. The team is coached by Jeff Simpson and assistant coaches Natalie Ginty, Courtney Fritz and Chris Ayers.

“My favorite part of playing in Hilton Coliseum was the atmosphere and having some of the students I met from Greek Week be there to watch us. They were all very excited for both teams and everyone cheered us on when we made a shot,” said SOIA athlete Tyler Leech. “It was like they were fans of us and even though we played against each other it was as if everyone was on the same side. It really means a lot since I never did anything like this before.”

The athletes felt a sense of pride being able to showcase their talents. “Our players were excited about the opportunity to play at Iowa State during the halftime,” said head coach Jeff Simpson. ” I was glad they played well and showed what they are capable of doing.  After a couple of good plays, the crowd really got into the game and our athletes really appreciated the crowd support.  It was a great experience.”

“This was a wonderful opportunity for our athletes to showcase their skills as well as practice for their upcoming area basketball competition,” said Special Olympics Iowa President and CEO John Kliegl. “Iowa State Athletics has always looked for ways to include our athletes at events like the Men’s Basketball game. We are so grateful to Iowa State and the city of Ames for continuing to be champions of inclusion for our athletes.”

SOIA athletes will be featured at more ISU Basketball games in 2018. Check out the SOIA Facebook page for more information on those upcoming games.