RallyCap Sports created by alumnus, brought to University

Corey Maxwell and Corey Maxwell

The University has unveiled a new recreational program this fall that allows children and young adults with special needs to participate in athletics.

The program, RallyCap Sports, was started by Paul Hooker, a 1975 graduate from the University and Luke Sims, a senior business major.

The idea for RallyCap came from Hooker who created a similar program in New Jersey called Challenged Youth Sports. He wanted to bring it to his alma mater so he pitched the idea to Ray Braun, dean of the College of Business and then that’s where Sims got involved.

“We decided the best thing to do was to get one started in Bowling Green,” Sims said. “It needs to be at colleges for growth because you have facilities, tons of volunteer potential and tons of people.”

RallyCap had their kickoff event in October at Perry Field House and the event had close to 40 children there with special needs and over 100 student volunteers.

“The kickoff went really well and now we are finishing up the soccer session of it and we’re going to try and get this to universities across the nation,” Sims said.

Each soccer session is just like any other soccer practice, according to Sims. The children and the volunteers stretch and participate in ball handling, passing and goal scoring drills. The participants each get a t-shirt and a cap. At the last session of the season, every child will receive trophies.

“We’re very excited about the children receiving trophies because they’ve never been able to get them because they haven’t been involved with sports,” Sims said.

Sims stressed that it’s less about the children being good at sports and it’s more about them being able to be social.

“We’re less concerned with sports accolades or truly the sport itself. We’re using RallyCap Sports as an avenue to create an opportunity for healthy living, building confidence and our most important feature, social integration,” Sims said. “A big part of the program is each participant that comes gets buddied up with a volunteer so there’s a lot of one on one interaction which is very cool.”

Sims added that the encouragement the participants receive from each other and the volunteers is a really big part of the program.

“It’s a really neat opportunity for the kids to just be encouraged,” Sims said. “It’s less about soccer as it is more about just having fun, running and being outside. When they make goals, it’s high fives all around but even when they miss they still are being encouraged.”

The winter session for RallyCap Sports will be a different sport and right now they are leaning toward basketball and baseball and they will have either a four or five week session for both.

There are plans of expansion for RallyCap Sports as there has been interest from universities such as Ohio State, Cincinnati, Toledo and Buffalo in New York.

“The idea would probably be to grow it in the MAC schools and then we’ll see,” Sims said. “We’ve gotten the athletics here very involved because they need service hours and this is a great way to do it. Other universities are very aware of what the athletes are doing here and how involved they are.”

Mariana Mitova, faculty adviser at the University, expressed her excitement for the program and its future.

“It’s exciting for the families too because seeing their kids be happy makes them happy,” Mitova said. “We’re planning on taking it nationally and we’re really excited about that.”

The program has brought togetherness of both the children and the student volunteers.

“One of the really cool things about the program is that it does something that not many other organizations can do which is bring people together,” Sims said. “The focus is on the kids and because of that you’re able to bring together different people. It’s a really neat atmosphere of volunteers who are really passionate.”

More information on RallyCap Sports is available at rallycapsports.org.