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Special Olympics basketball concludes season

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Oldham teams participate in state tournament in Louisville

By Jason Stamm

Their faces are somber, and they’ve shed a few tears.

The Oldham County All-Stars basketball team just lost its first game of the season. It came in the state tournament no less.

But coach Bob Osmer isn’t concerned with the outcome.

He looks each player in the eye and asks one question: “Did you try your best?”

Two Oldham County teams, the All-Stars and the Eagles, both concluded their seasons March 3 at the Special Olympics state basketball tournament at Hoops Indoor Sports Complex in Louisville.

After the loss, all 15 players give Osmer the same answer: Yes.

Osmer doesn’t have any of his own children on the team, but said he felt compelled by TV commercials to volunteer his time for the Special Olympics. His daughter Michelle, 22, is an assistant coach.

“You’ll never walk into a gym and see as much love as you see when you watch a Special Olympics basketball game,” Osmer said. “At the end of the day, it’s just basketball, but it’s an awesome mechanism for these kids. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

For the past seven years, the All-Stars have given special needs children and young adults in Oldham County a team to play basketball for. Track and field, softball and bowling teams are also sponsored by the Oldham County program.

And while parents are there supporting their kids, they’re receiving another kind of support themselves.

“It’s been a network for parents when something happens, good or bad,” said Becky Schmidt, coordinator for Oldham County Special Olympics. “It’s just nice to have someone else to talk to.”

Schmidt’s daughter, Alex, 15, has Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, a rare genetic disease. Alex has played since the team’s inception.

Michael Drennen, 16, of La Grange, has played on the team for the past three years. His parents, Carl and Lynn Drennen, said they attend every game and have seen improvements from Michael since he started.

“It’s given him an opportunity to be a normal kid,” Lynn said. “He gets to play and the games have been edge-of-your-seat. They’ve all played so well and improved so much.”

Derrick Harman, 19, of La Grange, provided much of the frenetic energy with his knack for scoring.

Using a variety of bank shots and jump-shots, Harman finished with 20 points.

“The best part of playing is when I make threes,” he said. “I try to aim at the square and I’m getting better.”

Harman’s father, Bobby Harman, said he gets goose-bumps watching his son play.

“It’s been a lot better than I anticipated,” he said. “It’s just awesome to watch him doing what he loves, plus these coaches have so much patience with the kids.”

Osmer, who has also coached middle school basketball at Christian Academy of Louisville and high school basketball in Massachusetts, said he’s tried to instill in each of his players what he’s learned from coaching.

“It’s not about the winning, it’s about the kids,” he said. “You try and win, but it’s like the Special Olympics motto: ‘Let me win, but if I can’t, let me be brave in the attempt.’”

For information on Oldham County Special Olympics, call 241-6081.

Email us about this story at: sports@oldhamera.com.