Sports are something that we have always wanted our kids participating in. My husband and I participated in a variety of sports as kids and into our teenage and even college years. We see the benefits that we got from being involved in these types of extracurricular activities and have always wanted some of those same benefits to rub off onto our kids as well. But sports and autism are something that rarely go hand in hand. We have attempted sports before with Damion, signing him up for soccer but only in the youngest setting were we able to have him participate (or somewhat participate) in this regular sport offered to all children. But it didn’t take long for Damion to age out of the youngest level and he just didn’t have the interest needed to move up.
We had never tried baseball of any kind with Damion outside of throwing and hitting around our own house, but since his siblings have started playing baseball and T-ball, we thought we saw a small spark of interest from Damion. He even made a request to go watch a baseball game, so we took all the kids to see a Dayton Dragon’s game. So, this year when the flyer came around for the Champaign County Miracle Youth Softball League, we decided it was time to give it a try.
If you aren’t familiar with the miracle league, I imagine it is similar to the programs you find within the Special Olympics or other adaptive youth sports, although to be totally honest I am completely new to this whole area myself. The main idea being that the programs are offered to children with any type of disability. The miracle league is specifically designed for the games of baseball and softball, with a sweet mission statement of “Every Child Deserves a Chance to Play Baseball”.
Miracle youth is not just a program that is local to us; They have miracle youth leagues all over the nation. Obviously, being new to the realm of adaptive sports I am not sure if every miracle youth league across the country is exactly the same as the one we participated in, but I do know that they share some basic fundamentals established by the program itself which we saw in the local league for Damion. Coming in we weren’t really sure what to expect on how the games were ran and I want to go over the basics of the program Damion was in for those who are unfamiliar and may want to know more.
- Anyone with a disability age 4-18 could sign up to participate.
- All players were split into two teams regardless of age or ability, making teams much larger than a normal baseball team would have been.
- We would play 1-2 innings depending on how long it took to get through the first inning.
- Every kid would get a chance to bat each inning.
- Kids stood in the field and the pitcher/coach would throw balls after each bat to players so they could practice basic fielding skills.
- Volunteer helpers or “buddies” would stand out in the field with the kids to help them participate. Parents were also welcome to go out into the field and help their kids.
- There were no outs.
- Every kid scored.
- No score is kept. Everyone wins.
We played on Sundays at 4pm and the program ran through the beginning of May through the end of July, taking out a few holiday weeks as they came up. You could bring your own equipment if you wanted but they had everything on hand that the kids would need for each game. They even had a picture day a few weeks in where you could order keepsake photos of your kids just like any other ball team would. The last week they had a pizza party with water games and presented end of the year awards.
We loved the program and think it is so great to have things like this that include the kiddos that are not able to participate in typical sports programs. It was a lot more relaxed than I had originally pictured but I think that was just from having years of regular sports memories for me and my other kids ingrained in my head. Damion wasn’t as big of a fan of it as we had hoped he might be. Many weeks we struggled to get him to want to hit or play in the field, but he did enjoy getting to see some of his friends from school were signed up as well. So even if it didn’t give him that full “sports” feel, it was still a good opportunity for him to socialize a bit with friends. Thank you so much to all those people who volunteer their time to put on this program locally for these wonderful kids.
If you think the Miracle Youth League would be a great fit for your child, be sure to check out the Miracle Youth League Website for more information. It has info on finding a Miracle Youth League near you or if you don’t have one close by, they also have information if you want to start one of these wonderful leagues for your area as well.