Special Olympics Founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, introduced the Special Olympics oath – Let me win, but if I cannot win, Let me brave in the attempt – at the first ever World Games and to this day it is recited prior to every major Special Olympics competition. Special Olympics Maryland athletes Brian Shahan and Josh Smith were members of Team Maryland and competed at the 2014 USA Games in Princeton, NJ in June. While Brian played golf, Josh played soccer; both personified Mrs. Shriver’s vision of who our athletes are and how they teach us every day to be better citizens. She would have been proud for the way that these two athletes upheld the oath and honored her legacy during their time at the Games.
Brian Shahan loves to play golf, and with that love comes the uncanny ability to remember every shot during a round… and that includes every shot of his fellow competitors as well. After completing his first round with Travis Curtis from Special Olympics Maine, the players went to the scorer’s table to review and sign their scorecards. As Travis prepared to sign his card Brian stopped him when he noticed a two stroke difference on one hole. Brian and Travis replayed the hole in question by counting each stroke taken, and after a short discussion they agreed that Travis had a lower score than what had been recorded on the card. They each signed off on the correction and Travis submitted the scorecard with an 85 instead of 87.
Rule 6-6, Scoring in Stroke Play is very clear on the player’s responsibility for returning the correct score. If a player signs for a higher score on a hole than taken, that score stands. If a player signs for a lower score, the player is disqualified. In this case Brian helped Travis get it right and saved him two strokes.
Brian loves the game and he simply wanted the results to accurately reflect what transpired on the golf course. He went on to post a three day total of 266 (88.6 stroke avg.) and finished two strokes behind the Male Division II winner, Tyler May from Washington who posted a three round total of 264. With a score of 268, Travis finished third in this highly competitive division which came down to final nine holes.
Josh Smith was born to be a “keeper.” His leadership and communication skills, positive attitude, and friendly personality enable this goalkeeper to anchor his Carroll County Unified 5 v 5 Soccer Team that represented Maryland at the 2014 USA Games in June. The week-long tournament played out on nicely manicured fields in Mercer County Park where Josh and his teammates advanced to the medal round against Pennsylvania. The teams were evenly matched, and at the end of regulation play, the score remained tied at 0-0. Josh and his Team Pennsylvania counterpart Dadly Thenor held each others team scoreless through two five minute overtime periods forcing penalty kicks to decide the match.
Each team identified four field players to take the penalty kicks. Dadly has physical challenges that require him to use a walker to get to the goal area but once in position, he defends the goal without assistance. After the first Team Maryland penalty kick, Josh assisted Dadly on and off the field through all four penalty kicks so that Dadly would not have to use his walker.
After the first four rounds of penalty kicks each team had converted on three attempts so the score was still tied. By the tournament rules it was now up to the goalies to take a penalty kick to determine the outcome of the game. Josh shot first and scored, giving Maryland the advantage. As Josh moved to his spot on the goal to await Dadly’s penalty kick attempt a Team Pennsylvania unified teammate provided Dadly assistance in getting him positioned for the shot. Everyone’s eyes were on Dadly as he approached the ball and kicked it toward the goal. On the goal line, between the pipes Josh Smith waited to defend against the shot. Dadly hit the ball solidly but right at Smith who was able to deflect the ball and secure a hard fought victory to Team Maryland.
The save set off a Team Maryland celebration that included everyone but Josh who was quick to console Dadly and then proceeded to walk off the field with him arm in arm without assistance from a walker. They shared proud smiles of joy expressing the spirit of sport. In the span of sixty minutes Josh and Dadly had forged a respectful and memorable goalkeeper friendship. The tournament bracket reflected Maryland as a 4-3 penalty kick winner, but both teams could claim victory as together they upheld the Special Olympics Oath during the well-played match.
While Team Maryland went on to win their Gold medal game and Team Pennsylvania won their Bronze medal game both teams are likely to remember the drama, emotion and sportsmanship from their semi-final match. In that match against Team Pennsylvania Josh Smith taught us how to be good and respectful in victory.
There were undoubtedly other equally compelling acts of grace and sportsmanship from among the 160 athletes representing Team Maryland at the USA Games. Josh and Brian both have been influenced by family values that contributed greatly to the exceptional people that they are as demonstrated by their actions. Special Olympics Maryland provides an environment where those same values are embedded in the philosophical approach to sports training and completion. Where sport participation is about more than a medal. Along with their fellow athletes Brian and Josh teach us every day that to “be brave in the attempt” is a way of life that manifests itself in unique ways all of which help build communities of dignity and respect.