“Don’t let me steal it! Don’t let me steal it!” shouted Roger Slingerman. He was caught up in a heated moment of basketball with two students from Delta Sierra Middle School.
A boy edged around Slingerman on the court and launched the ball to the hoop. It missed, but he earned a high five for his efforts.
Slingerman is the executive director of the Recreation Sports Club of San Joaquin, an organization that sets up outings for special-needs kids and adults. Groups have gone camping, to hockey and baseball games, and to school sporting events.
An annual favorite is the three-on-three basketball tournament, organized with Lodi Unified School District and adapted physical education staff. This is the sixth year of the tournament.
This year, 240 students from Lodi Unified School District played their hearts out on the basketball courts at Millswood Middle School. The tournament was open to San Joaquin County. A few teams from came from Manteca, Lincoln and Stockton school districts, as well as adult special need programs in the county. Music blasting from a DJ station lent a party vibe to the whole day.
Students from Lodi High School’s Apple Academy volunteered to help out. Apple is a small learning community focused on careers with children. These students volunteer in the community to gain experience.
Teenagers refereed the games, ran the time clock and managed the $5 registration fees at the entrance.
“This is a field trip for us. It’s really fun. We’re just out here playing,” said Miranda Menor, 17.
A cluster of kids in blue tie-dyed T-shirts from Lakewood Elementary School bubbled with excitement on their way back to the bus at the end of the day.
“The best part was playing basketball. And winning the championship!” chirped Rosa Carbajal, 11.
Her friend Jorie Broderick chimed in.
“The best part was having fun, and making shoots,” said Broderick, 10.
But Israel Cossio, 11, liked bouncing the basketball the best.
Teachers had different highlights to share.
Adapted physical education teacher David Clemons saw some of his former students during the tournament, and liked seeing the social progress they’ve made.
Jon Grim, another adapted physical education teacher, said otherwise quiet kids are filled with a competitive spirit.
“It’s all about being here. It’s a recreational opportunity for the kids, to just get outside,” he said.
A big part of the day is working on social skills. Slingerman said people with special needs have limited opportunities to get outside and have some of the same experiences as everyone else. His goal is to help kids build friendships and have some competitive fun. They also focus on skills like standing in line patiently, sharing the ball, and taking turns.
“We’re just trying to make a difference,” he said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.