HELENA — In lieu of a traditional state basketball tournament, Special Olympics Montana is holding skills clinics all across Montana in an effort to give teams an opportunity to compete and be with their teammates again.
Though it may not be the standard tournament with a plethora of teams and spectators, the event held in Helena was still a blast said Helena Halos' Michael Loomis.
"Oh yes, we had a fun basketball game," said Loomis.
The Halos, and the Tri-County Wolves and Tornadoes all took turns on Saturday taking over the court for their time to go through various skill demonstrations like shooting, passing and dribbling. Though there were plenty of drills to do, there was one that was the favorite of a handful of athletes.
"My favorite drill is shooting," said Loomis.
"My favorite drill was shooting basketball hoops," said Tommy Benedict.
Typically, Special Olympics Montana holds their annual basketball tournament in November, but they've been unable to host it for the second straight year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. SOMT Sports Director Scott Held noted it's obviously not what they'd hoped for, but it was still a great experience for the athletes nonetheless.
“They love being able to see their teammates and just get out. This really gives them an opportunity to be able to show off some of the gifts that they normally can't show off in everyday life, you know? Get together with their friends, in a period that is designated for them to have fun and show off that those athletic talents that they have," said Held. "They put in between eight and 10 weeks of practice in order to be able to compete with each other this year. So they're working hard and we love to see the support throughout the community.”
As for what's next? Held says it's still pretty up in the air as Special Olympics International is taking a "cautious approach" in returning to normalcy.
"Our hope is always to have the state tournament be something that some that we can offer. Because of course, the big tournament, the big celebration is a lot of fun, because we get everyone in from all across the state," said Held. "With that said, it's just so hard to know a year out, and I can't say with any certainty because we're constantly receiving new updates from, as I mentioned earlier, our Special Olympics International parent organization."