Meade named Special Olympics leader
By DANA DELGADO
In a roundabout way, Angela Meade has arrived at a point in her life which she has always dreamed about, but had come to believe it might never be fulfilled.
A multi-sport standout athlete at Liberty Hill High School, Meade earned an athletic scholarship to Angelo State University where she continued to excel in track and softball. She extended her passion for athletics by coaching at Liberty Hill Junior High early in her education career and longed to one day, coach her son.
“I grieved when he was not interested in sports,” she said. “I thought I’d put it to bed until he found Special Olympics. I call him Michael Phelps because of all the medals he has won including gold in the shot put at the area event.”
Much to her surprise, Meade was recently named Head of Delegation for Liberty Hill’s Special Olympics which carries the role of Head Coach for the entire contingent. The announcement was made by Robert Mabry, Human Resources Director for the Liberty Hill Independent School District. Meade is presently an elementary school behavioral specialist with the school district based out of Liberty Hill Elementary and is a graduate student at Texas A&M University where she is studying school administration with hopes of being a principal.
“I love Special Olympics,” she said. “And coaching has always been a passion of mine. The kids needed somebody and I have the background.” Meade is scheduled to attend training for her new role in October before beginning her duties as Head of Delegation.
She served as the Head track coach for the LHISD Special Olympics last year and has assisted in other sports including bowling for the past three years.
“First time I went,” she said, “I was overwhelmed. My oldest son has autism and Special Olympics brought out his self-confidence. He has really shined there. The Special Olympics is a competition but it’s also a family for the kids.”
Mead said that upon learning that she was going to lead the district delegation, her son was elated and then became emotional and embraced her.
Her son, Walker Raney, was a featured speaker last spring at the school district’s first ever awards night which recognized all the athletes and initiated a tradition of presenting Letter Jackets to Special Olympics athletes. Walker spoke on the benefits of participating including building relationships with athletes across the region and gaining confidence. “I feel like I can do anything now,” he said at the time.
Looking ahead to the season, Meade said she was disappointed that competition would not get underway until the spring because of her required Head of Delegation training; practice, however, is expected to get underway in December.
“We will miss bowling where we had a lot of success, but we will begin with basketball in January and follow with track. I have high expectations of them and come to look at the scope of the athlete and not the disability.”
Currently, students in LHISD with an intellectual disability such as those on the autism spectrum are eligible to participate in the Special Olympics if they are between the ages of 8-22. Nearly 50 athletes participated in the local program during 2017-18. Forty-two of those students are expected to return to the program with at least 10 new students entering program.
“Hopefully,” said Meade, “we can begin a delegation for athletes age 22+ in the next few years.”
Goals for the new season include the establishment of unified sports where students with and without disabilities compete together. One possibility is adding five-on-five basketball. According to Meade, unified sports provide greater opportunities for building peer relationships as well as empathy for students with disabilities.
Another goal is to continue to increase the number of volunteers of all ages. “I think the eyes opened for the community when they saw the happiness of the athletes,” Meade said. “It’s hard to put into words the relationship one develops with them.” Volunteers from ages 8-80 are needed. School clubs and organizations are strongly encouraged to become volunteers.
The third goal, already in the works, is the move from team t-shirts to regular uniforms. LHISD is expected to make the purchase to outfit the athletes.
Launched only three years ago by Elyse Tarlton, Director of Student Support Services, the delegation has established itself as a solid program with a record of success on the athletic field while garnering community acceptance and support. Christopher Klepper guided the inaugural program through its formative years and subsequent growth as the first Head of Delegation. Klepper resigned his position last school year to accept a position as a tennis coach.
Individuals and organizations interested in supporting the local Special Olympics delegation can contact Angela Meade at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on becoming a volunteer is available at http://www.sotx.org/get-involved/volunteer/.