Excitement is building for a squad of Whanganui Special Olympians poised to test their newly-learned basketball skills for the first time in Palmerston North this weekend.
Since joining Special Olympics Whanganui as chairwomen two years ago, Jan Bublitz and coach Sam Beatson-Shaw have slowly built a squad keen to play basketball and the time has come to test those skills against others with special needs at a two-day tournament hosted by Special Olympics Manawatu at the Arena on Saturday and Sunday.
Bublitz said this was the first time in eight years Whanganui had had a Special Olympics basketball team and she was keen to not only build on the current squad numbers, but also to widen the number of sporting codes available to the group.
"Since I arrived two years ago we have held development training sessions to upskill our Special Olympians," Bublitz said.
"We have played among ourselves, but we have also had the fortune of playing against a Whanganui High School girls basketball team. There are only four Special Olympic girls teams in New Zealand and we are hoping to make that five. We started with a mixed group of five or six players and have grown that to a squad of between 22 and 24.
"This tournament in Palmerston North is a really big deal for us and the squad is getting very excited by it. At the moment our age group is teen and upwards, but ideally we would like to make it available to primary and intermediate levels maybe to play in a miniball league. Those with special needs get a huge benefit from playing sport and getting out of their own environment and into mainstream activities that broaden their world.
"We are only a small organisation and not everyone knows about us, so we are keen to raise our profile and offer more for those with special needs in our region," Bublitz said.