For the second year in a row, more than 300 Special Olympics athletes and countless supporters will be taking over the Milwaukee Sting Center for the Special Olympics Wisconsin State Volleyball Tournament this weekend.
The volleyball players of Special Olympics Wisconsin will again have the opportunity to experience one of the premier volleyball facilities in the entire state thanks to a new partnership with the Milwaukee Sting Volleyball Club.
But beyond the impressive size and amenities of the new center, just opened in 2016, the partnership with the Sting also gives the athletes of Special Olympics Wisconsin and the athletes of the Milwaukee Sting a unique opportunity to come together over a shared love of volleyball. And all parties seem to love the arrangement.
“We try to help people grow through volleyball and build a relationship with their communities,” the club’s director, Dave Bayer said. “So this is a natural fit. We love working with Special Olympics. It’s the highlight of our year.”
Last year, the Sting provided approximately 60 of its athletes to volunteer for the tournament. This year, they’re expecting almost 100. The Sting players help out as line judges, scorekeepers or even in the cafeteria.
Bayer and the Sting administration were so happy with how last year’s tournament turned out, they even made volunteering at the event a requirement for incoming players at the lower age levels.
The signature exuberance and positivity of a Special Olympics Wisconsin event surely played a part in that decision. “They (the Sting players) were overwhelmed by the gratitude and the acceptance the Special Olympics athletes showed,” Bayer said. “They were always high fiving, saying thank you. The positive energy was phenomenal.”
Celebrating its 30th anniversary next year, The Milwaukee Sting Volleyball Club is a competitive club dedicated to helping youth enhance their volleyball skills and compete in regional and national tournaments.
But helping people of all abilities and skill levels enjoy the sport and its many off-the-court benefits is a big part of the Sting’s mission.
“Volleyball is a lifelong sport. You can play it at a young age, you can play it at an old age. It teaches you how to communicate, work with others, and sacrifice for the betterment of the team,” Bayer said. “It really forces you to get out of your comfort zone.”
While volleyball may force competitors out of their comfort zone, the Sting Center’s top-notch amenities will ensure athletes and visitors are as comfortable as possible for the tournament. The center includes eight courts made of the same surface used at the highest level of international competition, making it the first facility in Wisconsin to use the surface. The courts will also feature new courtside chairs for the players.
“We’re prepping already so they can have a great experience as soon as they walk in. We’re looking forward to it and can’t wait for it to start,” Bayer said.