Iowa State University volunteers pose with Special Olympics athlete after tournament awards show. Contributed photo.

Kinesiology and health students energize Iowa Special Olympics tournament

The Iowa Special Olympics volleyball tournament is quickly approaching on Oct. 12. For years, members of the Iowa State University Kinesiology and Health and Physical Education clubs have volunteered at the tournament held annually on campus in the Forker building. Thr event is near and dear to many community members, athletes, and students’ hearts alike.

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Contributed photo.

Volunteers serve as score keepers and line judges and help with announcements and awards. This year, Iowa State students are also partnering with Healthy Athletes, an initiative run by Special Olympics that provides free health screenings, as well as general health information during competitions. Allowing students to gain real life work experience by taking athlete's vitals and suggesting lifestyle changes.

“Athletes seem to gravitate towards college age students in general. Lots of our athletes are passionate about this event because they’re Iowa State fans themselves and really enjoy the culture,” said Elin Phipps, Special Olympics of Iowa’s director of volunteers. “The college students always hype up the event and make the athletes excited to participate.”

Elin said the Iowa State students go out of their way to engage the athletes.

 “The first year I worked the state volleyball tournament as a Special Olympics Iowa staff member I was so amazed at the enthusiasm and spirit the Iowa State students bring to the event. I remember a group of students serving as volunteers at the awards ceremony turned on music from their phones, held them up to the microphone, and deejayed the entire awards ceremony on the spot. Our Special Olympics Iowa athletes who were waiting for their awards broke out into a dance session for the remainder of the time — and it was very evident that they were all enjoying themselves!” She said.

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Contributed photo.

Kinesiology student volunteers embrace the tradition.

“It is a lot of fun to seem them (Special Olympics athletes) having fun,” said Jackson Culp, Iowa State Physical Education Club president.

Jackson first started volunteering for the event as part of a class. 

“I actually had to volunteer through a class I had for my major, and it turns out that it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of. So I’m glad that I get to take on a bigger role this year,” Culp said.

The majority of volunteers come from the two Iowa State clubs. About 80 volunteers are needed for the event as a whole, since Special Olympics is a non-profit organization.

Future opportunities to volunteer for Special Olympics of Iowa events are available on their web page, under the ‘get involved’ tab. 

“It is something everyone should try at least one time.” Culp said.