For the first time in the College’s history, the Bowdoin Student Athlete Advisory Committee (BSAAC) is organizing and hosting a month-long series of sports clinics in collaboration with the Special Olympics. During the Special Olympics’ annual day of awareness on March 4, Bowdoin will launch the campaign, “Spread the Word to End the Word,” to eliminate use of the word “retard."

The program stemmed from Bowdoin’s annual track clinic with the Special Olympics, which began four years ago. Siena Mitman ’15, head of BSAAC’s Community Engagement Committee, has been working with the organization to design the programming.

A volleyball clinic, doubling as the first event of the series took place last Thursday. There will be a basketball clinic on Sunday and a bowling outing next Friday.

“[We had] no idea what to expect, [but I] had some drills in mind, what would be fun, what everybody could do,” said Hailey Wahl ’16, captain of the women’s volleyball team.

At Thursday’s clinic, the volleyball team paired up with the athletes for one-on-one technical skills training—passing, hitting and serving. The clinic closed with a six-on-six scrimmage.

“[The Athletes would] make five mistakes in a row and never get discouraged,” said Wahl. “You realize most of the time we strive to be perfect, but really it’s the attitude that makes you a good teammate…I imagine the [Bowdoin volleyball] girls will want to be involved with the Special Olympics in the future.” 

Beyond the clinic series, planning is currently underway for the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign at the end of the month.

“We’re still working on what we’re doing that week, but we’re thinking of selling T-shirts to raise money for a local chapter of Special Olympics of the Bath/Brunswick area and Topsham,” said Mitman.

A potential event involves creating posters of harmful words that campus groups will commit to avoiding.

“[Working with Special Olympics] seemed like a great opportunity to take that beyond just a poster, and make it something that shows our commitment in a different and stronger way—to remind people to be aware of the language they use,” said Mitman.

Women’s basketball Head Coach Adrienne Shibles, the faculty liaison for BSAAC, was instrumental in certifying Bowdoin as a Special Olympics College, which she feels is an important characteristic of a Division III school.

“[The] perfectionist Bowdoin student can get really focused on winning and performing at your best, and I think sometimes the joy of the game gets lost. So it’s a reminder of what’s important. We absolutely love it,” she said.

In addition to the clinics this week, the men’s and women’s track and field teams will host their fourth annual Special Olympics track clinic in the spring, and Sarah Freeman ’15 is also organizing a swimming clinic that will take place later this semester.

In addition to focusing on athletics, BSAAC hopes that the partnership and these events will create a stronger sense of community between the College and the town of Brunswick.

“It’s mutually beneficial, in that I do believe that the girls on the team enjoyed themselves immensely and learned so much from the experience,” said Wahl.

“It makes you realize you are part of a larger community than just Bowdoin.”