By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen
AUTISM ACADEMY – The 2019 Arizona Special Olympics motivated a host of new participates who brought home gold and bronze medals.
Former U.S. Olympic contender, Trevaia Davis is raising the bar for fitness and athletics at the Autism Academy for Education and Development. Davis continues to train professional athletics, while also making it her purpose to impact sports at AAED.
As the AAED gym teacher and coach, Davis rallied student athletes for the Arizona Special Olympics. Under her leadership, the physical education and sports program is growing at a rapid pace.
“Last school year, we started with 7 kids playing bocce ball and basketball,” Davis said. “This year, we have 3 teams consisting of 34 players involved in the Special Olympics.”
Sports help students deal with difficulties, cope with disappointments, practice hand-eye coordination, build self-esteem and is good for the body and mind. One of the teams is a skills team and the other two teams are more traditional. “ Our skills team focuses on dribbling, passing, catching, and shooting,” she explained. “They don’t go up and down the court, they just do basic skills.”
“The players on our traditional teams are competitive and hungry for a win,” Davis said. “They train weekly and we’ve watched them grow.”
The team of autism-only students are rebounding, fast breaking and running plays – some are successfully shooting 3-pointers. Davis is supported by a 4 additional coaches, Darnell Cherry, Peter Quinn, Tanya Cherrington and Rashamell Vereen. Davis’s career consists of participating in the Big West champion, the 1993 World University Games, 1995 World Champs and 1996 Olympic Trials.
“Our coaches are compassionate, kind, observant and have a good understanding of the game,” she said.
Most importantly, they are well-connected with the children on the court. Special Olympics is Arizona’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. With 22,197 Arizona athletes and 22,643 volunteers, the organization draws cheering crowds that stimulate students with a sense of success for participating.
AAED gained more than a sense of belonging, they won gold and bronze medals and came home as champions.