Special Olympics practices start Sunday at Gaiser Park

Special Olympics Indiana-Jackson County is geared up for its first two sports offerings.

On Sunday afternoon at Gaiser Park on the south side of Seymour, the first softball practice will be conducted from 4 to 5:30 p.m. That will be followed by the first corn toss practice.

Before practicing, athletes must have gotten a physical and had a Special Olympics medical form filled out by a doctor. A Special Olympics application for participation form also must be filled out.

The goal is to have practices and games in preparation of competing at the EKS Games in August for softball and September for corn toss.

Special Olympics Indiana is a not-for-profit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in more than 20 Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It’s open to ages 8 and up.

Jim Shepherd, a member of the county management team, will be the softball coach. He recently led a callout meeting at Gaiser Park that more than 20 people attended.

He said at least 12 players are needed for the team.

“We need everybody, if you want to play, to stick with it and keep with it because once you start, everybody will be counting on you to keep playing,” he said.

Bats and softballs will be provided, but Shepherd said players may use their own bat as long as it’s marked by the manufacturer as an official softball bat.

Shepherd said athletes should bring their own softball mitt if they have one.

A regulation softball game will consist of seven innings or 65 minutes, whichever comes first. The game will be considered complete if one team leads the other by 20 runs after four full innings of play or by 10 runs after five full innings of play.

Each batter will start an at-bat with a one ball and one strike count. Pitching will be underhanded.

All batters, base runners and on-deck hitters must wear batting helmets, and the catcher must wear a face mask.

An individual skills competition also will offered if there is enough interest. That allows athletes to train and compete in four basic skills of softball: Base running, throwing, fielding and hitting. It’s designed for lower ability athletes. It’s not for athletes who can already play the game.

“Say you’re just not quite ready to be on a team yet, that’s something that you can do,” said Francie Smith, south regional manager of Special Olympics Indiana. “I know some people are like, ‘I’ve never played before. Maybe it’s not for me quite yet,’ so to learn those skills, that’s another purpose of the skills is to learn the game and how to play.”

Corn toss offers doubles competition with pitching from a 21-foot distance or a 30-foot distance. Special Olympics follows the American Cornhole Association rules.

A match is played until the first doubles team reaches or exceeds 21 points at the completion of a half-inning. The time limit per match is 30 minutes. The team leading once the time limit is reached will be declared the winner.

Shepherd said athletes may do both softball and corn toss if they wish.

Volunteers also are invited to go through online training to help with Special Olympics events.

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Special Olympics Indiana-Jackson County has announced its first two sports offerings: Softball and corn toss.

The first softball practice is from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Gaiser Park on the south side of Seymour. That will be followed by corn toss practice at the same place.

For information about Special Olympics Indiana-Jackson County, contact county coordinator Crystal Ackeret by email at [email protected].

For information about Special Olympics Indiana, visit soindiana.org.