Glenbrook United prepares for regionals

Special Olympics winter season includes basketball, snowshoeing


During a Glenbrook United practice on Dec. 1, players participate in a practice game. Glenbrook United started basketball practices on Oct. 13 in preparation for the state basketball tournament. Photo by Claire Satkiewicz

Whether he is running in track and field, throwing a bocce ball or swinging a golf club, Glenbrook United participant Jonah Townsley finds joy in playing multiple sports through Glenbrook United.
Glenbrook United is a year-round Special Olympics athletic team composed of students from Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South and Glenbrook Off Campus. Individuals are eligible to participate if they have cognitive delays, significant learning problems or intellectual disabilities. Alumni can continue playing on the team post-graduation if they are enrolled in the Glenbrook Transition Services from ages 18 to 21.
Through Glenbrook United, athletes can participate in sports including volleyball, soccer, track and field, flag football, golf and bocce. The winter season consists of three sports: floor hockey, which ended in November, snowshoeing and basketball.
According to coach Craig Ameel, the floor hockey team won two games against Hersey in November, winning the first game 8-2 and the second game 7-3.
Jonah Townsley enjoys seeing his teammates out in the community, Jonah’s mother Jennifer Townsley said in a video conference.
“It gets everyone outside in fresh air with friends, just having a good time,” Jennifer Townsley said.
Glenbrook United sports are divided into groups by gender and ability. The team plays in these groups at games and tournaments, and the number of groups varies based on athlete participation. This year, there is one boys basketball team and one girls basketball team.
The basketball team is scheduled to compete in separate boys and girls regional tournaments in January. The girls regional tournament is scheduled for Jan. 16 at Hersey. The boys regional tournament is scheduled for Jan. 23 at Deerfield.
Teams are separated into brackets of eight for the tournaments, and the champion of each bracket advances to their division of the state basketball tournament, which is planned to take place at Illinois State University on a date to be determined. This year, the girls basketball team automatically qualifies for the state tournament because of a lack of girls teams throughout the region.
For the regional tournament, athletes play regular basketball games against Special Olympics teams within their region. Game pairings are sorted by ability level, which come from coaches skill evaluations of their players.
Participants can also compete individually in skills tournaments, which are sorted into levels determined by ability, age and gender. The skills consist of target passes, 10-meter dribbles and spot shots. Criteria such as how many baskets are scored or dribbling speed determine points, and the total score determines placement.
At basketball practices, athletes dribble and shoot in teams, play competitive games and run drills.
Basketball practices are filled with energy, coach Kim Petty said in a phone interview.
“When [the athletes] are at practice, they always have a smile,” said Petty. “Just to see the smiles on their faces makes [coaching] worth it.”
For snowshoeing practices, players form two lines outside and race each other in 50- and 100-yard sprints in snowshoes, regardless of snow.
According to Jennifer Townsley, the whole family goes to cheer Jonah Townsley on at Glenbrook United events.
“He was actually really good at running in those big snowshoes, so that was a really good time for him,” Jennifer Townsley said.