Even before Richard “Dick” Vetter earned his spot as a Special Olympics Hall of Fame athlete, his parents, Bob and Nellie Vetter, volunteered countless hours to help the Muscatine Special Olympics (MSO) succeed, especially in basketball, one of Dick’s favorite sports. To honor their contributions, MSO has hosted the Vetter Holiday Classic for the past sixteen years. A popular basketball competition for Special Olympics athletes across the state, their year’s Vetter Holiday Classic, held on December 14th, provided MSO athletes a fun opportunity to compete and sharpen their skills ahead of their upcoming District Basketball Tournament, which will take place in mid January.
The Vetter Holiday Classic features five on five and three on three competitive tournaments as well as a three on three non-competitive tournament. An additonal tournament outside Special Olympics’s usual events, MSO Director Jason Miller reports that athletes from across the region enjoy this event as a way to get additional basketball practice against a variety of opponents. “It’s a fun extra tourney we put on to give athletes and teams extra playing time and it helps coaches evaluate where their players and coaches are at before we get to the actual competition,” explained Miller.
This year, more than 100 athletes (including twenty-one from Muscatine divided between their five on five team and three three on three teams) from seven different Special Olympics organizations participated in the Vetter Holiday Classic. Across the board, athletes loved getting to compete in a welcoming and challenging event. “I think they [enjoyed] the competition and a chance to show off their skills,” said Miller. He added that local athletes enjoy the advantage of, “hosting this tournament and getting the local crowd to come and watch.”
As a long-time organizer of this event, Miller always has a great time seeing his athletes thrive in front of some of their biggest supporters. “I enjoy the fun and excitement our players get when given the opportunity to play in front of friends and family. Much like the game we play versus the firefighters, they really like playing in front of the home crowd.”
Though cold temperatures have put a halt to outdoor sports for the next several months, MSO basketball will continue to practice and compete all winter long. In the new year, MSO swimming and powerlifting practices will begin as well. To give these teams the hometown support they thrive on, Miller invites you to attend the MSO basketball game against the firefighters on February 17th. He also encourages everyone to follow the progress of MSO athletes as they attend the Winter Games in Dubuque on January 13th through 15th and the District Basketball Game on January 18th in Eldridge.