Five years back, during a Saturday afternoon bowling game, I noticed a team across the lanes. They were having a good time, and I was curious. I asked a few questions, got a few names, in particular Jason P. Fast forward to 2017, and I’m a proud member of the Seattle Park Sharks. Seattle Parks offers a Special Olympics team that participates in several sports. Back in high school, I played football and was on the wrestling and track teams. I’m on four teams for the Seattle Park Sharks. I bowl, do track and field, play softball and basketball. Competition is why I got into this and when I step onto the court, I’m there to do one thing: Win.
This year, the Seattle Park Tiger Sharks basketball team finally made it to the state championships after 10 years. We won gold. It was my first time going to state for basketball and it took a lot of hard work to get there. During regionals, we played against a team that beat us the year before, the Seattle Eagles. At state, we played two qualifying games, two tournament games and a final game, where we won 52 to 8 against the Edmond Tigers.
I love competition. That’s why I got involved in the Special Olympics. But I also enjoy spending time with a community of people who have a good time playing sports and having fun. The state championships are great in that the night before the final games there is a dinner and dance. For basketball, there is just the dinner and dance, but for track and field there are also games and prizes, like a carnival. Everyone puts the competition aside for the evening to relax and have fun. But then it’s back to the game, back to winning.
My jersey number is 3. Seattle Parks provides jerseys and sports equipment for players to use, which I think is great. They also don’t charge a fee for people to join the team, and registration is as simple as a phone call. You won’t find that with some of the other teams in King County. Three years ago, I and a friend of mine, Cindy, purchased our own jerseys. My number is 3 for a reason, and it’s not for a Seahawks’ player. I’m sure you’ve heard of Dale Earnhardt Sr., The Intimidator. That’s me on the court, fields and lanes. I’m an aggressive player. I’m serious about every game, practice, qualifying or tournament. I’ve broken my hand, taken a softball to the eye, and those weren’t even during the competition. Cindy, however, did pick her jersey number 24 for Marshawn Lynch. Sports have always been a part of my life and the Special Olympics keeps me involved.
I’ve learned a lot participating in the Special Olympics. I’m still learning. The Special Olympics is there to encourage people of all abilities to do things. They lift people up. Some of the participants have had experiences with people putting them down, but the Special Olympics is about reaching out to people. I encourage people to sign up for the Seattle Parks team, to compete or to volunteer. I would love to see more volunteers. There is a swim team, golf team, even a skiing team. Come to an event. Merchandise is sold there to raise funds for the organization and provide equipment for players to use.
Up next are the Track and Field regionals on April 22 in Shoreline. I’ll be doing the 100-meter walk, 200-meter walk and shot put. I hope to place first in them all.
Harlan Wood is a Real Change vendor and decorated athlete.