By JULIE SHANNON
When the Neumann University girls volleyball team walked into the Copley Hall gymnasium at Bancroft’s campus, they had no idea they would have similarities with the Special Olympics volleyball team. Both teams’ names are the Knights and both teams’ color is yellow. They bonded right away over the resemblances and because of everyone’s love for volleyball.
The Special Olympics volleyball team consists of athletes of all ages with intellectual disabilities from South Jersey. They practice every Tuesday night at Bancroft in Haddonfield, and on Dec. 6, the Neumann University girls volleyball team practiced with them.
Jeanne Bozicek, life enrichment manager at Bancroft, coordinates the adult Special Olympics at Bancroft.
“We try to do unified teams as much as possible, where people with disabilities play on the same team with people without disabilities, and so we believe if we play together, we will also work together and live together,” she said.
Some of the members are Bancroft residents and others are from the community who have disabilities and don’t receive services from Bancroft.
“They are part of the community, and our residents are having even more friendships and relationships,” Bozicek explained.
Relationships formed between the two teams as they practiced serves, how to handle the ball and how to block the ball.
“I’m learning everything from them,” said Kevin Angelley of Magnolia. “An overhead serve — I didn’t know how to do that until tonight.”
“I love my teammates and having fun,” said Michelle VanBoerum of Voorhees. “I’m learning we work as a team.”
Michele Asher of Sicklerville was happy everyone was there to do the same thing and have a good time, which is what the entire night was primarily about.
“I think this is an awesome experience,” she said. “It’s great to work with other people that actually want to do the same thing as you — play volleyball. The girls at Neumann are really awesome and very inspiring.”
The members of the Special Olympics team were inspiring the Neumann girls as well.
“This gets everyone involved and moving,” freshman Carlee Herrin said. “It’s awesome and so much fun.”
“This is awesome just to incorporate our love of the game with them,” senior Nicole Collevechio said. “It’s a lot of fun and a great learning experience.”
Special Olympics coach Rachel Farreny, could tell right away it meant a lot to her players to play side by side with collegiate athletes.
“The social aspect was great for them and you could see in their faces just how much fun they were actually having and when it comes to sports and competition, that’s what matters the most,” she said.
Neumann girls volleyball coach Alicia MacGlaughlin said the practice brought a “different light on the game” for everyone involved.
“I think for the coaches and for the players, it brings a different appreciation for a game that we play,” she said.
Asher’s husband, Steve Coddington, loves how much fun volleyball is, and he not only plays the game for himself, but for his daughters, too, so they can look up to him and his wife. Their 10-year-old daughter also plays in the Special Olympics, and their 7-year-old daughter will be eligible to play when she turns 8.
“It’s nice to have this experience,” he said. “We’re learning more on how to play, it’s awesome. It’s nice they do this. I play for my kids and my wife so we can do things with each other. I tell my kids all the time that my motto is, believe in yourself, put your mind to it and you can do anything you want.”