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Olmsted on Autism: He Shoots! He Scores! Fire the Coach!

Posted Feb 06 2009 12:00am

Toekn By Dan Olmsted

I had a strange reaction to this week's story about the high school basketball team manager in Maine. As USA Today reported: "Patrick Thibodeau, who has Down Syndrome, trotted onto the floor Tuesday night for the team's final home game of the season. When the time came to shoot, he nailed a 3-pointer for the second basket of the game. He hit another at the final buzzer."
This reminds us of the awesome J-Mac, Jason McElwain, the team manager with autism who when he finally got the chance scored 6 three pointers in the last 4 minutes of the last game of his senior year. But here's my question: Let's say a third-string player on one of these teams hadn't been in a game all year -- or ever. Coach puts him in the last game. Just so mom and dad can cheer. Kid goes wild! Hits from DOWNTOWN!!! Is un-CON-scious! ... all those sportscaster phrases.
Wouldn't people say, What was this coach thinking? He had one of his best players sitting at the other end of the bench for four long years and didn't know it? Aren't we trying to win here? (We sure were back at Danville High School in Illinois.)
Maybe I'm missing something -- some health concern, some Title IX thing, some nuance. If so, tell me. But geez, if the kid can play, let him play, not pick up sweaty towels. Don't make inclusion on the court or on the field a "very special," made-for-TV story. Make it typical.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism

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