Author: Caleb Crippen

Synopsis: Enable asked athlete Caleb Crippen to recap his experience at the Nebraska Special Olympics Fall Games. This is his submission.

It was here, the 2016 Fall Games. I took in all the sights and sounds of the Games, as I didn't get my chance to compete until Sunday--soccer day.  Soccer is a sport that I have done for almost my whole life, practically since moving here to Nebraska at age 5.  However, I didn't get even halfway decent until joining this Lincoln Sharks squad in Special Olympics.  Kudos to the coaches there… they sure know what they are doing.

Though I have been playing soccer for some time, this tournament was different for a couple reasons.  Firstly, I was asked to play in a Midfielder role this year instead of my usual position at Forward.  That being said, I had to always know where not only the ball was but my teammates as well. This is helpful for both attacking and defending. I've done a position like this before in lighter increments but not at this magnitude. This was Fall Games!

Secondly, one of my teammates has been practicing with us these last few years but has never competed because other sports have always conflicted with our schedule. Until this year. I was excited for her as she finally gets some playing time with us. It was fun watching her win a couple medals in tennis just the previous day. It’s great to support teammates in other sports as well.

We ended up playing our first match against Columbus and we got hot pretty early. After halftime the game was close, but we had two of our guys one goal away from the hat trick.  We ended up winning convincingly 8-2 and we felt pretty good.  Still, I was confident our second and final opponent (Papillion/LaVista) would not be a walk in the park.

And I was right.

By this time, we weren't exactly fresh. This match was immediately after our first match, so we didn't have much time to recover from match one. Although I don't think that was the reason for the following result, it contributed to us starting a bit rusty. We ended up playing behind much of the game. In fact, for two of their goals, they caught us out of position defensively.

One positive thing happened that has not happened for years.  I.  Scored.

I don't remember the play quite like it was yesterday, but I do know it was one I earned.  Could they have been better defensively? Yes. Was it bad defense I was against? No.  I just had to just get it past the keeper and it was more of a quick shot. Somehow it went in.

I felt more relief than anything.  I almost forgot what that felt like!  This wasn't something I expected after scoring 10 goals back in USA Games in 2010.  None of those resulted in a hat trick.  Glad to get that out of my system.

We scored one more time, but it was an oddity.  I was going for a one-time shot to a teammate, but the shot was slightly off and it went to the keeper instead.  However, the keeper couldn't hang on to the ball and ended up being off him and in the goal.  My response was 'Oops!' But there was more game to play.

We fell to a 3-2 final record, and since Papillion/LaVista had won their other match we ended up winning silver medals.  But, as a team, this was the best tournament we've had in years and things are looking up for us.

Our other Lincoln Sharks team ended up winning gold in their division after a back-and-forth final that went to extra time. We were very excited for them, and they were happy too.

All in all, we had a successful Fall Games.  I hope that next year's is even more successful.  Special thanks to all who make these games possible year in and year out… you are all awesome!

I also want to thank Enable for asking me to recap our Fall Games this year. It is great to share this experience. I appreciate Enable for making it possible for anyone regardless of their status or skillset to be able to save for their future. It is encouraging to be able to work hard and financially plan just like everyone else. I am grateful for the opportunities this will bring to my friends and I.