For Ben Brody, sophomore men’s volleyball student-athlete, his first Special Olympics experience provided him with insight into Vassar College and its men’s volleyball program before he even enrolled at the institution. Because, during an overnight visit his senior year of high school, Brody had the opportunity to experience the Vassar’s annual Special Olympics volleyball tournament.
Each year, 12 to 14 Special Olympics volleyball teams consisting of six to 10 athletes travel from up to three hours away to participate in a large tournament on the institution’s campus. Over 60 volunteers from the institution — including representatives from Vassar’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, men’s and women’s lacrosse team, women’s golf, and men’s and women’s volleyball — help make the day run smoothly while over 100 spectators bring the energy into the stands.
For Brody, this experience helped solidify his choice to join the Vassar men’s volleyball team and community. He said, “This unique experience provided me with the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of my future teammates’ dedication to community service as well as their ability to work for something greater than themselves. Each year I think back on that first experience, and I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be in an environment where my fellow student-athletes are so caring and intrinsically motivated.”
Now a member of the men’s volleyball team, Brody has assisted in the organization of two Special Olympics volleyball tournaments at Vassar. Additionally, when the Vassar men’s volleyball team reached the NCAA men’s volleyball championship semi-finals, Brody participated in a Special Olympics bowling event with the final four teams. Brody noted that this experience provided one of his favorite Special Olympics memories. He recalled, “After a game of fierce competition and back and forth score advantages, I fell short of my Special Olympics opponent. After her clutch final frame, she promptly turned around and thanked me for a good game. She was, perhaps, the most gracious victor I have had the pleasure of competing with. She gave me a better understanding of one of the NCAA’s and Division III’s most important tenants: sportsmanship. The entire event was a delight because of the respect and amity she brought to the competition.”
Overall, it is this sense of enjoyment that Brody, who plans to attend medical school and become a pediatrician after graduation, has learned from Special Olympics. He noted, “Seeing the delight of the Special Olympics athletes allows me to reflect on my love for athletics. While competing and succeeding in their sport provides Special Olympics athletes with a sense of pride and fulfillment, it is their pure enjoyment of the game that is most infectious. It pushes me to follow in their example by appreciating the contest while also celebrating the excitement of playing the game.”
[In honor of the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics and in celebration of the Division III partnership, Division III and Special Olympics have joined forces to present 50 profiles honoring the unified work of the NCAA, Division III and Special Olympics. Use the hashtag #d3SO50for50th for more profiles and on any Division III/Special Olympics activities.]