NEW ROCHELLE, NY — As the athletes from New Rochelle’s Special Olympics team played together against rival schools in the Regional Fall Sports Festival last Saturday, coach Rhonda Boychews saw something amazing happen.
“I watched as their confidence grew with each game,” Boychew said of the eight team members who faced four other teams in Beacon, N.Y. “They experienced real competition with real failure and real success. In the end, they came away with three hard-earned goals and a second-place finish in their division.”
This was the first time members of the team attended the soccer tournament, Boychew said. She has coached New Rochelle’s team in the Pioneer Sports School League for six years. She started with a team of 18 students who played only basketball. Now the team boasts about 40 high school and middle school athletes, and competes against 16 other teams. Last month, the New Rochelle Board of Education named five aides and paraprofessionals to support the team members.
They play throughout the year, starting with soccer through December, followed by floor hockey in January and February. With March and April comes basketball, including a March regional tournament hosted at Albert Leonard Middle School. Finally, they play volleyball in May. Also in May, they compete in the Hudson Valley Regional Spring Games at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
At the end of the school year, they celebrate with a dinner-dance.
For now, the year has just begun and Boychew is happy with what they’ve been doing.
“That was a huge accomplishment for them, to be able to learn the game and to be able to improve and see success and to see failures,” she said. “They did that on Sunday and I was proud of them for that.”