8:37 a.m., Nov. 24, 2010----When fifth grader Collin Sullivan, a student at The College School (TCS), found out he was going to be learning basketball skills from players on the University of Delaware men's basketball team, he had high expectations.
"I really want to be better at basketball and I hope they're going to teach me how to play better than I do right now," he said.
While learning any sport from a collegiate-level player would be exciting to an elementary or middle school student, for students at TCS, these lessons are extremely important.
Occupational therapist Patty Campbell designed the basketball group at TCS as a form of occupational therapy for students who have delayed social and motor skills. The group has lessons throughout the year that help them improve on those skills.
"Each week we practice a specific social skill that would help them integrate better into a group sport in the community," said Campbell. "In terms of motor skills, we break down the sport into sequences that the children have particular difficulty with to help them learn these step-by-step."
TCS, a school that is part of the College of Education and Human Development at UD, serves students in grades 1-8 who demonstrate learning, attention, mild social/emotional, and/or mild behavioral issues.
Campbell approached the UD men's basketball team to see if they'd be willing to mentor the students during a lesson. On Nov. 11, four UD players walked into the gymnasium next to TCS, ready to play ball.
With head coach Monté Ross and director of basketball operations Saul Rafel-Frankel watching from the sidelines, players reviewed dribbling, passing and shooting skills with TCS students. They also talked about the positions they play and the responsibilities of someone playing that position on the court.
Edwin Santiago, a senior and native of Wilmington, says he's been playing basketball since he was a child. He says he hopes he can help the students really enjoy the sport.
"I play to have fun," said Santiago. "Obviously, to win games, too. But, when it comes down to it, everyone should have fun doing something they love."
Campbell has been running motor and social groups since last year and tapes each session so the students can watch it afterwards and track their improvements. She says she's seen many changes in the students. Additionally, she points out that because the occupational therapy is group-oriented, students are helping each other and becoming more motivated and pushing each other to accomplish their goals.
"They're more assertive physically in terms of participation skills," she said. "They're playing basketball at recess and initiating play, and sometimes we didn't see that before they started group."
Campbell says the most recent lesson with the UD basketball players has really made a positive impact on the students and she's looking forward to working with the UD basketball team again in the future.
"UD basketball players are great role models in terms of skills and sportsmanship," said Campbell. "This is a great example of many UD students and departments coming together to help a special part of the UD community. Their willingness to work with TCS has made such a difference for the students."
Article, photos and video by Cassandra Kramer