Last Friday, Philadelphia Union partner Widener University hosted a send-off in Chester for the PA Delegation of the Special Olympics as they readied for the National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. Philadelphia Union Coach John Hackworth conducted a soccer clinic at the event, which included six Pennsylvania teams. The PA Delegation Soccer Team from Chester County was in attendance, as well as teams competing in aquatics, bocce, bowling, track and field and tennis.
"Working with these athletes is truly an amazing experience and I feel honored to be able to spend time with them," said Hackworth after the event.
The Special Olympics National Games consist of thirteen different sports including aquatics, basketball, bocce, bowling, flag football, golf, rhythmic gymnastics, power lifting, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field and volleyball. Over 3,000 athletes are currently competing, with 1,000 coaches and 30,000 family members, friends and fans joining the athletes in Nebraska. The opening ceremony took place on July 18 and the closing ceremony will officially conclude the Games on July 23.
According to Jeff Baxter, the Special Olympics PA Competition Director, 40 athletes from Pennsylvania are competing in the National Games. Of the 40, 10 are playing on the 5 v 5 soccer team that qualified to go to Nebraska. All 10 of these athletes hail from Chester County.
“People qualified over the past few years for the National Games,” Baxter said. “The soccer team came in first in a couple of events throughout Pennsylvania to qualify. Soccer is one of the biggest events for Special Olympics in Southeastern Pennsylvania.”
With the Games underway, Hackworth and Philadelphia Union are proud to support the athletes representing Pennsylvania.
"It is so rewarding to spend time with athletes who truly appreciate being taught. Their willingness to learn and their passion for the game is extraordinary."
Photos from the event: