Every member of the Steward community is encouraged to share their gifts … and our girls varsity basketball team is having a ball doing just that.
Each Saturday morning from December to February, the varsity girls host a Special Olympics basketball practice on campus. As a culmination of the season, Steward recently hosted a Special Olympics play day. “Our girls organized this event and took the lead on making it a fun day for all of the students and families who attended,” said Assistant Director of Athletics and Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Kara Bacile, the 2022-23 TCIS Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
At the lively event, two Special Olympics teams competed against the Tuckahoe Terror Bon Air Rec team (thanks to Cole Tyler ’23 for his help in organizing the Tuckahoe team!); a mix of Steward varsity boys and varsity girls; and each other (with a few of Steward’s girls sprinkled on each team).
“Our Spartans showed their spirit by making posters to decorate the gym for each Special Olympics athlete, and they served as cheerleaders, coaches, announcers, and players,” said Coach Bacile. “We’re so thankful to Steward’s varsity cheer team, which provided goodie bags for each participant, and to Spartan Club President Chuck Wingfield and the Spartan Club, who donated popcorn and drinks for our guest athletes and their families. Chuck was there the entire two hours helping out!”
The partnership between the Steward girls basketball team and Special Olympics brings to life the School’s strategic plan pillar that emphasizes the importance of Spartans making connections to the greater Richmond community.
Gates Fox ’23, who has played varsity basketball for five years, said, “Getting to know the Special Olympics athletes and playing a sport we all love is a meaningful experience I will always remember.” She credits Steward coaches with encouraging her to reach out to help others. “I’ve learned that community service comes down to finding ways to give back in a manner that excites you and incorporates your passions,” she noted. “I intend to continue finding ways to give back in whatever community I am in because of how my coaches have inspired me.”
Middle School Social Studies Teacher Wallace Inge noted that several of Steward’s varsity girls basketball players also recently played with his Unified Henrico Spartans team, which he coaches. The team is comprised of Special Olympics athletes and Steward athletes. “The girls basketball team has been helping out with this team for six years, but last year, because of COVID-19, Special Olympics of Virginia canceled the season,” he said. “The Steward girls, with the School’s blessing, decided to keep basketball going for the Special Olympics teams by hosting practices. I doubt that there is any other team that puts in as many community service hours as our girls basketball team. They are true examples of going above and beyond!”
This season, the Steward varsity girls basketball team finished 23-10 and were TCIS Conference Runner-ups and VISAA Division II State Semi-Finalists. “We finished ranked seventh in the Richmond Times-Dispatch local poll,” said Ms. Bacile. “In the past five seasons, we have won the TCIS Conference Tournament once and won two VISAA Div. II State Championships!”