The ninth-grader had spent the preceding weeks practicing, and she was ready to sink some baskets.
Amy Huang, an Amador Valley High student, smiled as she readied for the start of the Northern California Special Olympics Basketball Competition on Tuesday. She had her eyes on the prize, and she said one thing was on her mind that day: "To win the game."
Hundreds of students from Pleasanton and other Tri-Valley schools participated in two Special Olympics events at Pleasanton Middle School this month. Students from transitional kindergarten to fifth grade took to the court March 3, and sixth- through 12th-grade students competed Tuesday. Fifteen schools attended the event this week, including ones from Livermore, Dublin and Castro Valley.
"Human braveness is defined more by the spirit than by the body," Pleasanton Middle principal Jill Butler said during the opening ceremony.
The Special Olympics basketball games regularly take place at Pleasanton Middle and are separate from qualifying matches that determine entry to the Special Olympics World Games.
Every student who participated received a ribbon, so everyone felt like a winner at the end of the day, said Alicia Newell, special day class teacher at Amador Valley.
Special education students from various schools spent time before the tournament talking, and general education students also attended as volunteers. Pleasanton Middle's basketball team for the event included special education and general education students.
"It's important for them to have the camaraderie with their classmates," Newell said.
While teachers try to find ways to integrate their students with their general education peers, it can be challenging on a day-to-day basis. However, events like this help students feel like they're really just as important as every other student, as well as helps normalize disabilities for general education students, according to Christine Fitzsimmons, an Alisal Elementary School special day class teacher.
"If they have siblings who are neuro-typical and they participate in sports and events, they may be left out of that," she said. "We're in a pretty sports-focused community, so it's very typical that kids would talk about their weekend games or tournaments ... and this gives my class the same opportunity."
Schools were paired up and assigned to one of four courts. Scorekeepers and referees were on-site, but the goal of the event was just to make sure everyone had fun.
During a Pleasanton Middle face-off against Livermore's K-8 Joe Mitchell School, students dribbled and passed down the court, their faces covered with smiles and looks of determination.
"They don't really keep score ... Everybody wins," Fitzsimmons said.