Student-Athlete Stop Day Tradition

Dec. 11, 2009


Stop day at the University of Kansas has been traditionally a day for students to sleep in, study and prepare for the upcoming week of looming finals, but KU student-athletes are starting a tradition of their own and it involves laser tag.

“We are starting to create this tradition of hanging out and creating an event with Special Olympians on stop day,” said women’s golfer Alyssa Rainbolt. “Last year was so much fun. We got to hang out with them and play laser tag and games. It is a really fun event and I am excited about making it a tradition.”

KU volleyball player Allison Mayfield and her Special Olympic partner got ready for Laser Tag Friday in Olathe as part of SAAC’s Special Olympic Party.

For the second year in a row KU student-athletes have banded together on stop day to have some fun with Special Olympians and to engage in some friendly competition. They played laser tag, skeet ball, Dance Dance Revolution, pin ball and much more, and there wasn’t once person in the room who wasn’t smiling.

However, there was no doubt that everyone’s favorite part of day was playing laser tag. In the darkness of the laser tag cave there were teams running, shooting, ducking behind walls and leaning over balconies to claim their victory.

“It is a lot of fun to interact with them,” rower Cassie Sparks said. “I liked having this day where I had the chance to relax and play some laser tag and meet some cool people.”

This year’s December 11th stop day traditions were made possible thanks to Advanced Laser Tag, located in Olathe, Kan., who opened their doors early and exclusively for KU student-athletes and Special Olympians. They generously donated their whole facility for use in efforts to make the day that much more special.

“I am enjoying everything,” said Kyle Weafer, Special Olympian.

“It is a really great opportunity to come and interact with them,” rower Elise Langtry said. “They are Special Olympians and they are athletes just like we are. It is nice to know that they are not that much different than we are and that you can have a really great relationship with them.”

Many of the Special Olympians were decked out in KU gear and were excited to talk to the student-athletes about which sports they played and what it was like to play sports in college. The interactions between the Special Olympians and the student-athletes are what really made the day meaningful.

“When the athletes of Special Olympics get the opportunity to come and interact with KU athletes they take a lot of pride in that,” Chris Hahn, President and CEO of Special Olympics, said. “A lot of them have KU attire on today, one or two of them slipped through the door with K-State on, but we allow it every now and then,” Hahn joked. “They have a good time. I think this accomplishes one of the goals of the Big 12 and that is to have student-athletes and their member institutes interacting directly with Special Olympic athletes.”

This stop day tradition also gave student-athletes a chance to bond after a busy fall season. There were volunteers from all teams at Advanced Laser Tag, except for men’s and women’s basketball and swimming because of practice conflicts.

“It is a lot fun, it is a good to give back,” track and field athlete Dan Hitman said. “I would have never meant Henry if it wasn’t for today and he would have never met me. We are pretty good friends now and we are getting along great. I can’t play laser tag (due to an arm injury), but I am still having a lot of fun.”