Marymount Students Make Basketball Tournament Special

Jimmy McKay knew it would be fun to volunteer at the 20th Annual Northern Virginia Special Olympics Basketball Invitational Tournament on Saturday at Marymount University.

“But I had no idea just how exciting it would be until I saw the look on those player’s faces,” said McKay, a second year graduate student in the department of physical therapy.

McKay served as the announcer for all the games in the main gym at the school’s Rose Benté Lee Center, where he said the energy level was infectious.

“They’re just so excited to be out there,” the Walden, New York, native said. “How many basketball tournaments will have a dance competition during halftime of the championship game with players from both teams out on the floor dancing away?”

About 100 special needs athletes from Arlington and Fairfax counties participated in the event, sponsored by Marymount’s office of community engagement. More than 250 MU students volunteered to help, making the tournament memorable for the 10 participating teams.  During opening ceremonies, Sen. Barbara Favola (Arlington) presented Marymount President Matthew D. Shank with a certificate of commendation from the Commonwealth of Virginia, recognizing Marymount’s 20 years of organizing and hosting the tournament. 

Suzanne Carson, who works in the library at Marymount, said her 25-year-old son, Benjamin Carson, has played Special Olympics basketball since he was 12.

“For the whole group we work with, the entire season leads up to Marymount Day,” she said. “We’re blessed and fortunate that it’s here in Arlington.”

Benjamin knows a number of Marymount students and athletes and is always telling everyone to come and watch his team play. His older brother, Daniel Carson, is a Marymount alumnus and former lacrosse player, and Benjamin has plenty of fans on the varsity lacrosse team.

“It means a great deal to the players that it’s not just their parents out there cheering them on,” Suzanne Carson said. “The men’s and women’s basketball teams come out, the students from the dorms, Marymount staffers. That’s a really cool part of it all.”

Ashlee Courter-Rogers, coach of the Marymount women’s basketball team, said her players want to be involved every year.

“It’s an amazing experience being around athletes who play purely for the love of the game,” Courter-Rogers said. “And it’s really an eye-opener for our freshmen to see what a close-knit community we have here.”

A former Marymount player who volunteered at the event during her playing days, Courter-Rogers said the Saints love the relationships that develop.

“The players give us hugs when they see us, and we catch up from last year,” she said.

After one year of announcing the games, McKay said he was hooked. He added that the event speaks volumes about Marymount’s commitment to service.

“So many students came together on a Saturday to do something for someone else,” he said. “But to be honest, I think we all got a lot more out of it than we put into it. This tournament is really something special for everyone involved.”

Photo Captions:

Photo 1

Marymount University President Matthew D. Shank receives a commendation from Sen. Barbara Favola (Arlington) on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia for the school’s 20 years of hosting the Annual Northern Virginia Special Olympics Basketball Invitational Tournament. (Photo by Bob Brown)

Photo 2
Player David Church poses with Marymount University President Matthew D. Shank at the 20th Annual Northern Virginia Special Olympics Basketball Invitational Tournament on Saturday at Marymount University. (Photo by Bob Brown)

Photo 3
Marymount students and Special Olympic athletes both look forward to the annual basketball tournament on campus. (Photo by Bob Brown)

Photo 4
More than 250 Marymount University students volunteered to help at the Special Olympics basketball tournament. (Photo by Bob Brown)