FOREST, Va. - The Old Dominion Athletic
Conference (ODAC) and Special Olympics Virginia (SOVA) entered into
an official partnership following a meeting of the league’s
Board of Directors last week. The affiliation between the two
organizations is part of a NCAA Division III initiative that was
put into place by the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory
Committee at the NCAA Convention in January.
“From the moment the NCAA Announced the Division III SAAC initiative with Special Olympics, I knew this was a great opportunity,” explained ODAC Commissioner Brad Bankston. “Our missions are similar and what better way to give back to the community than integrating with Special Olympics.”
Special Olympics Virginia serves more than 10,000 athletes through seven regional offices and 29 area programs. SOVA is one of 52 U.S. programs, and part of a global movement that serves three million athletes in more than 180 countries.
Click to visit the Special Olympics Virginia website
The ODAC’s coverage of the Commonwealth is just as expansive. Twelve of the conference’s 13 full-time members span from the southwestern corner of the state up to Harrisonburg and across to the east coast. The inclusion of Shenandoah University for the 2012-13 academic year increases the ODAC’s Virginia footprint.
“Our membership provides a unique opportunity to partner with Special Olympics Virginia, covering every corner of the state,” added Commissioner Bankston.
Several of the league’s schools already participate in events with SOVA. From track meets at Lynchburg College and swimming and basketball events at Virginia Wesleyan College to an invitation to the men’s basketball year-end banquet at Eastern Mennonite University, the benefit of the ODAC’s involvement with SOVA is evident. The official partnership between the ODAC and SOVA will help strengthen current relationships and build new opportunities throughout the state.
“Special Olympics Virginia and the Old Dominion Athletic Conference are doing the exact same thing every single day; using sports as a vehicle to make all of us more than we were before,” said Rick Jeffrey, President of SOVA. “SOVA and ODAC athletes play for the joy of the sport, the love of the game, the development of the self. I cannot wait to see how our Special Olympics athletes benefit from the interaction with the great players in the ODAC. I also believe the ODAC players will learn a ‘little something’ too.”
The Division III SAAC began exploring a national community-outreach initiative during its meetings in November 2008 and January 2009. SAAC members sought input from institutional and conference SAACs before making a recommendation. To facilitate the effort with Special Olympics, the Division III SAAC will establish a subcommittee to work with conferences to coordinate at least one conference SAAC activity with Special Olympics during the academic year.
The ODAC’s experience with Special Olympics Virginia took its first steps at the 2011 NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship in Salem, Va. A co-sponsor in the event, the ODAC was part of the planning group that included SOVA athletes in several activities, including exhibition games, surrounding the national semifinals and the Reese’s All-Star Game.
“This partnership is a natural fit and something I expect our student-athletes to cherish for years to come,” said Commissioner Bankston.