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2009 News Releases

Longwood professor starts baseball program for local youths with challenges

August 28, 2009

Longwood professor teaches baseball to a child with physical or mental challenges

A Longwood University faculty member has started a baseball program for Farmville-area youths with physical and mental challenges.

Dr. Matt Lucas, assistant professor of physical and health education, established a local branch of the Challenger Division of Little League Baseball Inc. this past spring. All but one of the nine school-age youngsters on the Farmville Challengers team are students at Cumberland Elementary School (CES), where the team played five games among themselves during May.

"We hope to have another season this fall and will definitely have a season next spring," said Lucas, a specialist in adapted physical education. "The fall season will be an after-school program, again at Cumberland Elementary, and the spring season will be on weekends, as was this year's spring season. We give the kids individual attention and whatever assistance is needed. Some of the kids hit off a tee, and others we pitched to, depending on their abilities."

Lucas was assisted during the recent season by his one of his colleagues in the Department of Health, Recreation and Kinesiology, Dr. Susan Lynch, associate professor of therapeutic recreation; two teachers at CES, Michelle Fitzpatrick and Stephanie Johnson; and Erin Bollinger, a Longwood therapeutic recreation major.

Lucas became acquainted with Fitzpatrick this spring semester when he took students in his adapted PE class to CES to do their practicum. He suggested the idea of Challenger baseball to her, and she quickly agreed.

Lucas, a 1994 Longwood graduate, was involved with Challenger baseball in Northern Virginia for eight years, during which he was an adapted PE teacher with the Fairfax County schools. The Challenger program was established in 1989 as a separate division of Little League.

"The team was brought together to ensure that all children, regardless of disability, would have the opportunity to experience the joy, camaraderie, and vital lessons that team sports provide," said Fitzpatrick. "The games were not about competition, who would win or who would lose, but about getting out there and being part of the experience. Along with learning skills related to T-ball, the players expanded their listening skills, cooperation skills, and social skills. Each player received as much or as little adult assistance as needed, and each had the opportunity to hit, catch and field balls at each 'game.'"

Lucas is considering taking the Farmville Challengers to a non-competitive Challenger tournament in Virginia Beach in May 2010. The tournament attracts teams from up and down the East Coast. Any parent with a school-age child who is interested in the Challengers may contact Lucas at 395-2538 or lucasmd@longwood.edu.