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Special Athletes Shine in Soccer Competition at Dublin High School

October 27, 2013
Special Olympics Soccer Competition

Special Olympics Soccer Competition Torch Bearer

You may remember a somewhat overcast morning last Thursday in Dublin. However, inside Gaels Stadium there were hundreds of beaming faces. These were the faces of some very young students, families and staff members and even some grandparents. This day marked the Second Annual school-based Special Olympics Soccer Competition. While the concept of Special Olympics was hatched in the 1960’s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the history in Northern California did not begin until 1995. On the heels of a very successful track and field event last year, Dublin High School took the lead in hosting this day’s activities. Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade children were the focal point of this event. Four soccer fields were clearly coned off on the sports field and the athletes were free to have a great time.

Adding another level of pageantry was the presence of many service men and women from Camp Parks. They lined the track as the Dublin High School Irish Guard band and students paraded through. The service people also served on the perimeters of each soccer field. The Dublin High Band & Guard then took their position in the stands and provided “pep” music for all of those in attendance. In all, 221 student athletes were present to compete. This was a Tri-Valley event which included those from Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin. However, also participating were students from Sunol and as far away as Mountain House. There was no need to wonder when the overcast skies would break as there were enough smiling faces in Gaels Stadium to illuminate the field. had the pleasure of covering this day by a direct invitation through Eric Hamilton, Dublin Unified School District Adapted Physical Education Instructor. We also had the opportunity discuss the day’s event with Tri-Valley educators.

Melissa Chicconi has been employed as a Special Day Class (SDC) teacher in Dublin since 2005 and has worked at Frederiksen Elementary School since 2008 – often with students with moderate to severe disabilities. Prior to her arrival in Dublin, she worked for many years in the Riverside Unified School District with a similar population – both pre-school and Kindergarten. She states that “I live for those small moments when my children “get” the concept that we’re trying to teach and feel proud when they can do things on their own that were once so difficult.” What was the reaction of your students when they realized that they would participate in a Tri-Valley wide soccer event at Dublin High School? How did you and your aides help them to prepare?

Melissa Chicconi

Melissa Chicconi

Melissa Chicconi: “Our students LOVE any type of motor activity and were excited to go on a field trip to compete and “show off” the skills we have been practicing at school these past few months. With the help of our Adapted Physical Education (APE) Specialists and Instructional Assistants, we have been practicing dribbling, passing and shooting skills in our weekly APE sessions, recesses and in daily classroom motor activities. Our APE Specialists helped us to set up skill stations on the playground with cones and nets and we’ve been practicing stopping the ball with our toes, which is no small feat when you’re still learning to coordinate your body movements at this age! “ What level of support did you receive from parents/staff/administration at Frederiksen Elementary for this event?

Chicconi: “The Tri-Valley is such a supportive community! Many of our preschool parents came today to cheer us on, in addition to Holly Scroggins (Frederiksen Principal) who marched with us in the parade. Our School Psychologist, Jennifer Lin, came to help us play in one soccer game and then helped us walk back to school. The general education students at Frederiksen made banners and posted them on campus to show their support for our athletes and made announcements after the morning flag salute to wish us good luck!” The environment at SONC was very positive and uplifting. In your opinion, how does this help your students to participate in this or other enrichment activities?

Chicconi: “For many of our students, motor activities can be difficult, but the upbeat atmosphere at today’s games gave our athletes the encouragement they needed to do their best. Volunteers cheered us on, gave high-fives and worked very hard to make sure that each athlete had an opportunity to participate in whatever capacity they could. When we have a “can do” attitude, our children rise to those expectations!” Anything else that you would like to add?

Chicconi: “I do want to say a special “Thank You” to the DUSD APE Staff for their tireless efforts in helping us train for the games, set up, facilitation and break down of this day. Many hours of coordination and hard labor made today such a wonderful experience not only for Dublin athletes, but also for our friends from Livermore and Pleasanton. Each year seems to get better and better!”

Dublin High School Special Olympics Soccer Competition Participation Ribbons

Participation Ribbons

As previously mentioned, we received the invitation to cover the soccer competition by a DUSD staff member. When we asked of another special educator that we could speak to, Eric Hamilton did not hesitate. He quickly identified Mr. Brad Morisoli from the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District. Eric gave a brief description and told us to look out for his khaki colored hat. Sure enough, we found him on field number four and running with the kids. As a very young man, Brad worked as a construction contractor. In 1979, he and his wife joined forces and created Morisoli Construction, Inc. After a successful 25 year run, they transitioned the business back to key remaining employees who then started Bentancourt Brothers Construction in 2005. The ultimate closure of Morisoli Construction occurred in 2012. But with so much vigor and life experiences to offer, what would he do? It is a fascinating next chapter in life. You had a full-fledged business career/business prior to joining LVJUSD. Please explain what motivated you to continue help students, particularly in physical education?

Brad Marisoli

Brad Marisoli

Brad Morisoli: “I had always wanted to teach. While as a sophomore and junior at Cal State Hayward [now CSU East Bay], I coached football at Granada High School. My plans were to teach at the high school level. Towards the end of my sophomore year, word had trickled down that there wouldn’t be any teaching jobs. I ended up working for a contractor at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in the summer of 1975. I returned to Granada in 1980-81 as an assistant track coach. The desire to teach never left me. In the fall of 1988, Granada advertised a position for head track & field coach. I applied and started as the new coach in the spring of 1989. This rekindled my desire to teach. I would not act on that desire until 2002 when we start the process of selling Morisoli Construction. During this period I coached track & field, football, basketball and baseball. For ten years, I coached year round, moving from season to season.

I returned to college in October 2005 and I completed a business administration degree in May 2007. I enrolled in a teaching credential program August 2007. I originally started a credential in Special Education. I had also signed up with the Livermore School District to substitute. On the second day of school, the district contacted me for an APE substitute position at Granada. That led to a year of teaching Adapted Physical Education under a waiver and changing my credential focus towards APE.” Your entire family has a history with Granada High School. Please expand upon your devotion to GHS and its surrounding schools.

Morisoli: “Diana and I graduated in 1973 and we were married in 1976. All three of our children graduated from the school. Through coaching, teaching and having my family and six nieces attend GHS, it has created a very strong bond with our clan. Most importantly, I have preached to my teams, parents and coaches to “get involved.” I live by that philosophy. I start each morning at any elementary school, move to Granada and then back to another elementary school.” Today was a very fulfilling event. Please help us understand how it made you feel and what it means to participate in a day that serves mild to severely disabled young students.

Morisoli: “The Special Olympics is a couple notches higher in energy and emotion than a typical day. However, every day is a fulfilling day. APE is one of the best (I do not want to use the word job) ways to spend each day that I could ever conceive. The Special Olympics program provides a day that improves the lives of all our students, parents and all who attend through sports and activities. I cannot cure my students. However, I can provide them with enjoyment through physical activity that improves the quality of their lives.” Any last words?

Morisoli: “Get Involved!”

The passion for students with special needs flows through their teachers and in their very own words. While it was a relative small sample, it was also truly representative of what we experienced and witnessed on that overcast Thursday morning at the DHS Gaels Stadium. No doubt, there were countless other examples felt across the field that day. salutes all of the volunteers and particularly the Specialists and Adapted PE teachers that made the SONC event a very bright day indeed. It was our privilege.

Editor’s Note: The Special Olympics Soccer Competition for students in grades 6-12 and Transition will occur on Thursday, November 7th at Dublin High School. Opening ceremonies will commence at 9:30 AM and the games will begin at 10:00 AM. There is no cost to attend. 

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  1. Paula Penninella permalink
    October 28, 2013 8:46 am

    Thank You Michael for helping us celebrate such a wonderful day in Dublin. Fun was had by all.

    • Michael Utsumi permalink
      October 28, 2013 11:37 pm

      Thank you, Paula. It was indeed our pleasure to cover this event. I hope that your colleagues and circles can support the November 7th event at DHS that represent 6th grade athletes and older. Appreciated your kind words.


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