28 April 2017


by Cecily
I've started co-managing a local Special Olympics team*. We just finished up the Area Spring Games, and the State Summer Games are in two weeks.** The org chart for the Special Olympics program in general cracks me up, as do many group-specific rules about what to call different things and people and roles. It works great once you get it figured out! But I have a lot of conversations that stumble around for several minutes because we're using the word "team" in very different senses.

A Special Olympics team is not a group of people who play games of a particular type of sport together. A Special Olympics team is basically just a group of people. People who have intellectual disabilities, but otherwise that's about it. Some teams are related to schools, so the people on those teams have that in common, but the Platonic Ideal Special Olympics team has no such affiliation. My own personal team has members ages 18-70 who live all over the Greater Missoula Metropolitan Area. (I hope that's not really a thing people call it.) And officially it's not actually a team, it's a Local Program. Colloquially a team, though.

The people who participate in Special Olympics are not called Special Olympians. This was included in my training. They are called "athletes" (or "runners" or "swimmers" or whatever). Not Special Olympians. Do not use the term "Special Olympian" on any flier or newsletter or banner or anything else that you make.

Huh. Okay. That's an... interesting rule to emphasize so much. What's up?

The International Olympic Committee is a huge brat, that's what. (A huge bunch of brats? A bunch of huge brats? Let's treat it as a person for simplicity and grammar.) They care a lot about who else uses names that have any Olympic/Olympian in them. I sort of knew this, because when I was 5 or 6 my mom coached an Olympics of the Mind team and then they had to change the name to Odyssey of the Mind because the IOC made them. The IOC does not want any scrappy little smartypants kids or intellectually disabled athletes diluting their brand. If you video part of a local event, and the video includes a banner that says "Welcome Special Olympians!" then that part of the video cannot be made available publicly or used in any promotional materials because we don't want the IOC to find out.***

So. The athletes are on the team. Where do the sports and coaches come in? Pretty haphazardly, that's how! Each Local Program (team) finds out what sports the athletes want to do, and then finds coaches for those sports, and figures out how to work out practice space and equipment and whatnot. How many coaches per athlete depends on availability and which sport it is. (Downhill skiing is generally 1:1; soccer maybe 2 or 3 coaches per 5 or 6 athletes?)

The people who find the coaches and ask the athletes and set up schedules and practice spaces and equipment are the Local Program Coordinator (I will think of a pseudonym for him later) and the Assisstant Local Program Coordinator (me). Typically called the LPC. "Okay, we need all the head coaches and LPCs back here for a meeting at 9."  "Are you a coach?" "No, I'm the LPC."  (Turns out the Special Olympics culture is well toward the 'government' end of the acronym-usage spectrum.)

Then the coaches and athletes for each sport practice together for a couple of months until they go to an area competition and then a state competition, and then the season is over and different sports start up.*****

Anyway I say I'm helping run a Special Olympics team and people keep asking me "what sport does your team play?" and "what the hell are you doing coaching a sportsing team?".  And the answer is surprisingly (and annoyingly!) long and complicated. "Well, the team doesn't actually play a sport, and I'm not actually coaching anything..." Stopping there seems enigmatic to the point of rudeness, and I haven't figured out a place to stop (or way to summarize) that provide sufficient but not excessive information.

The end.

*This is something I tease myself about fairly often. In high school I was very snottily anti-sport. Who would do or watch THOSE? Ugh, jocks. Let's go make a poorly-thought-out (but kind of dumbly hilarious) movie based on American History instead. Also all my ideas related to stuff for the team to do are basically art projects. I keep having to remind myself that the whole point of this undertaking is playing organized sports.

Also, it is really fun and rewarding and I highly recommend getting involved (as a coach or something, managing a team takes quite a bit of time) with your local program.

**It is bizarre/hilarious to me that the State Summer Games are in May. It is to follow the school year (because there are school-based teams), but I still think it's a silly idea. May in Montana is not summer. Spring happens very slowly here, dragging out the process unbearably. April is only tentatively spring. The first whiff of spring. Spring's toe, testing the water.  I mean, I guess it doesn't matter what you call the competition**** ("You could call it Bob instead" as my dissertation adviser was fond of saying about more things than you might imagine) as long as everyone knows which sports are in it and when it's held.

I still think it's funny though.

***The IOC also has strong opinions about when you can use the word "the". That is, basically, you can't use Special Olympics as a noun. You can say "we're going to the Special Olympics state winter games" but not "we're going to the Special Olympics". The training program heavily emphasized these language rules but only lightly touched on which sports are available to pick from or how much the court size is different from standard. Hopefully nobody from the higher-ups reads this blog; if you do, I'm just teasing. Have as many hyperspecific rules about language as you want, my friend.

****Or maybe it does? I mean it doesn't matter what you call it but maybe it matters when it is. Maybe doing sports during actual summer is fundamentally different than doing them during the spring. Does it change how fast you run, or just how hot and sweaty you get? These are things I do not know, being an eschewer of many types of physical activity.

*****There is more to it than that, because there are National and World events, but my understanding of that part of the setup is extremely hazy.

11 April 2017


by Cecily
Because of my unrealistically rare disease, I spend a lot of days in bed. I look at the ceiling a lot. I read a lot. I watch a lot of things on Netflix. I find many, many YouTube videos of people dancing and of Sesame Street covers of songs.

But lately I've also been wasting many hours playing Thimbleweed Park, which is a new point-and-click adventure puzzle game pretending to be an early 90s point-and-click adventure puzzle game, set in 1987. My brother gave it to me for my birthday. I recommend it. It is full of many ridiculous jokes and tasks and references to other video games and pop culture in general.

Whenever I spend a lot of time doing something on a computer, I start expecting real life to be similar. Like, writing a lot of papers and spreadsheets, I kept thinking "control F" when I lost my keys and "control Z" when I spilled coffee.

The adventure game effect is weirder. For one, in Thimbleweed Park one of the ongoing  jokes is picking up specks of dust wherever you see them. Then if you "look at" them, the character says "It's my specks of dust." They're randomly distributed all over, on the floors and streets, little tiny white squares (they're "pixels", from the olden days when you could see pixels.")

Recently I noticed that I've been subconsciously keeping an eye out for specks of dust to pick up, as I go about my daily life. (So far I haven't found any.)

And when I'm about to do something irrevocable with an uncertain outcome (resetting the stereo on my car was a recent example) I have a deep internal urge to save the game, so I can come back and do this part over if everything goes to shit.

I really wish we had saved the game last summer.