The BuddyBall Sports Model
The BuddyBall model is an all volunteer experience matching children with developmental disabilities to non-disabled buddies for 1-1 sports activities. In addition to the players and buddies, parents and community benefit from this enterprise.
Buddy Ball Sports TM is a non-profit sports organization dedicated to providing the opportunity for children with developmental disabilities to play sports. BuddyBall is a subsidiary of Orangetown Mighty Midgets (OMM) Soccer which is a large recreational soccer league catering to 2,500 children throughout the town of Orangetown in Rockland County, NY, for the past 40 years.
BuddyBall initiated its inaugural season in the fall of 2001 with Soccer, then added Basketball over the winter, and then Track & Field program in the spring. Through the assistance of local organizations, individuals and schools, we reach out to as many people as possible, to offer community based recreational sports programs, grouped according to the general abilities of the children that register.We utilize the popular concept of providing each child with a Buddy; a volunteer that will help guide the registered child through the sports activities with as much or as little assistance as is needed.
Players – Any child (age 3 – 21) with a developmental disability that wants to be “part of a team” and learn skills that will not only improve their sports’ abilities but also strengthen their social skills is welcome. The interaction with their non-disabled buddies provides a normalization experience that carries over when they meet each other in school, in stores, or in recreational areas. It is common to witness “big greetings” when buddies and players run into each other in the community.
Buddies – The buddies are teenagers from Orangetown and the surrounding communities that are willing to spend quality time working and socializing with children that have various levels of developmental disabilities. For those that need it, community service hours for school and/or religious education requirements are kept track of and verified. It is said that many people feel uncomfortable being around people with disabilities and they attribute this to their lack of exposure and experience doing things with them. From their experience in BuddyBall, the Buddies get a chance to see the players they work with simply as” kids” with unique and fascinating personalities. Their work in BuddyBall will give them the confidence to appropriately socialize with people with disabilities in all settings throughout their lifetimes.
Adult Coordinators (Volunteers) – A core group of volunteer adults organize and supervise over 250 children (players & buddies) during all 3 sport seasons (soccer, basketball and track). It is important to note that this group doesn’t have any children (players) in the program. These volunteers have acquired the knowledge they need from their team experience in BuddyBall and from listening to players, parents, and community professionals who offer advice.
The Community – The BuddyBall Sports Program has received increasing support from surrounding school districts and various community and government organizations. BuddyBall goes beyond the rhetoric about accepting people with disabilities in communities, to providing experience that actually contributes to making that happen. You see it on the athletics fields and courts and you see it in “real life” in the parks, stores and sidewalks of our community.
Formal Program Description
For each sport, the program is designed to provide active fitness, skill development, fun, and a sense of true accomplishment. This is accomplished by organizing activities into skill stations and adapting those stations to provide the maximum chance of players’ success. The design of activities includes using adaptive equipment such as 1 foot hurdles in track, freestanding 6 foot baskets in basketball, and three foot soccer goals. It is also accomplished by setting rules that increase the chance of success. For example with the younger players, they have the opportunity if they choose to play a mini game in both soccer and basketball. The rule change that is made is that defenders must get to their assigned spots in a zone defense but they cannot steal the ball. In this way, every offensive play ends in a score. Of course, team scores are not kept. The players celebrate each goal or basket individually.
- Starts the 2nd weekend after school opens in September and runs for 8 weeks
- All players are evaluated and placed in groups based on skills and abilities
- Approximately 20- 25 players and their buddies receive instruction and play a soccer game on an appropriate field
- The remaining 50 – 60 players and their buddies participate in a clinic setting divided into 4 stations (focus on 4 separate skills). Players rotate to each station every 15 minutes
- Each player receives a soccer jersey as well as a award at the the 8-week session
- Starts the 2nd weekend in January and runs 8 weeks
- The oldest, most skilled players work with their buddies to build their basketball skills. They are divided into two teams each week and play against each other.
- The middle level players work together doing individual drills with their buddies and station drills. Those who wish have the opportunity at the end of the session to participate in a game using 7 foot rims.
- The youngest players do individual drills and a lot of shooting on floor standing baskets that range in height from 2 to 5 feet. This group engages in more free play and social interactions with their Buddies than the two older groups.
- Track season goes 8 weeks from April to May.
- The Players are divided into small groups and rotate to each of 5 stations. Stations include:
- Relay Race
- Javelin Throw
- Shot Put
- Long Jump
- The activity in each station is modified to ensure maximum participation and maximum success for all players. For example, the 1ft hurdles are spaced 10 yards apart. Player must run over 4 hurdles to the finish line for a total sprint of 50 yards. The Javelin (an actually training tool by high schools) is plastic which makes it lighter and easier to throw.
The town of Pearl River hosts the 2nd largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York State each year in March. Under the banner of BuddyBall, players, buddies, parents and adult volunteers march together through the town. Without dispute, the loudest cheers from the parade watchers are directed toward the BuddyBall group.
Another yearly activity that takes place in Pearl River is the Soapbox Derby Competition. BuddyBall players and Buddies get a chance to participate in this exciting event by using special dual seat cars. It is an incredible exciting experience for all that would not be possible without the relationship building that has been accomplished through BuddyBall sports. Buddyball’s involvement is made possible through the support and generosity of the Pearl River Rotary Club who arranges for the loan of special modified cars from another Rotary club. Because of the nature and timing of this event, not all players can participate. We randomly select the maximum amount of participants we are allowed to have race out of those that express an interest.
Each December, the Pearl River Division 3 Ancient Order of Hibernians celebrates Christmas by co-hosting a party with Buddyball at the Hibernian House. Food, music and costumed characters (Buddies) ensure a truly enjoyable holiday spirit. The highlight of the event is Santa’s visit ( along with the gift he brings for each child)!
If you would like to register a child, are interested in volunteering, or want to apply to be a Buddy, you can reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.