Southsider Voice correspondent
During her high school years at Center Grove, Chelsea Davis never shared with anyone that she wanted to be on the gym floor with the other girls, playing volleyball.
Instead, Davis pretended that she was content with being the team manager.
Her fear of rejection was just too strong.
“I didn’t know if people would accept me,” she said. “When some people see that you have a disability, they don’t understand you. They might say, ‘We don’t want you on our team.’ ”
Soon after graduating, Davis, now 28, discovered Special Olympics.
Her time on the sidelines abruptly ended.
“I always wanted to do sports,” she said. “But I didn’t know how other people would be.”
Because Special Olympics provides year-round training and competitive opportunities in more than 20 sports, Davis has spent some of the last nine years dabbling in several athletic possibilities. Then she made decisions about which sports she enjoyed most.
For example, she tried basketball. “But that wasn’t my sport.”
Davis has gained some great friendships and made some wonderful memories while participating in swimming, volleyball, bowling and softball.
In addition to the sports, she is also involved with another segment of Special Olympics, the Athletic Leadership Program, in which athletes learn more about leadership and develop coaching skills.
“For the last four years I’ve been playing sports but I’m also teaching and tutoring other people,” Davis said proudly.
Focusing on the positive has helped her to secure employment in a restaurant, and she volunteers at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Available to more than 5 million children and adults with mental disabilities, chapters of Special Olympics can be found in more than 165 other countries.
Such a busy calendar says a lot about how Davis now views herself. She more readily identifies her many skills and abilities.
Much like Davis, Travis Coy sadly sat on the sidelines of life for many years.
When his family encouraged him to get involved in Special Olympics, he immediately began to bloom.
“Travis just loves to play sports,” said his mom, Linda Coy of Franklin. “I am really proud of my son.”
Because he can participate year-round in lots of different activities, Travis happily practices and competes in basketball, baseball, bowling and even cornhole tournaments.
“His dad and I are always on the sidelines, cheering him on,” Coy said with a laugh. “And Travis has won a lot of medals too. He has at least 10 in all kinds of different sports.”
Learning about the basics and rules involved with different sports has been good for Travis, Coy said. But he has also learned about good sportsmanship, how to get along with teammates and how to listen and follow instructions.
“He has grown up so much,” Coy said. “It has all been so good for him.”
Four years ago, Travis, 27, made a mature decision. He announced to his parents that he was ready to move out of the family home.
“He decided all on his own that that was what he wanted,” Coy said. “So now Travis lives in a group home in Greenfield. Since he moved there, that boy is never home. He is involved with all kinds of different things.”
Like Davis, Travis Coy is employed. Also like Davis, his social calendar is busy.
Participating in Special Olympics at any age helps to erase those negative feelings of being excluded, fearful or awkward, Coy said.
When the environment is filled with celebration and joy, accomplishment and acceptance, great things tend to happen for all the athletes, just like they happened for her son, who has Down Syndrome.
“Special Olympics changes lives,” Davis said. “It makes me feel good about myself.”