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As printed in the Daily Herald 4/22/15

Participation in sports can motivate, inspire and teach. For one young man it has been all that and more. Now it is opening a door to a dream he didn’t even know he had.

To say that Ryne Stolarz, 25 of Wheaton, is passionate about sports is an understatement. He lovesRyne Stolarz playing, watching and learning about sports. Ryne has been playing one sport or another for as long as he can remember. According to his dad, Jack, over the last 17 years Ryne has participated in Special Olympics swimming, basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, softball and volleyball. He was even the basketball manager for his high school team.

The one sport Ryne had not gravitated to before was soccer. That was until last year when he was recruited to join a soccer team in need of a few extra players. His friends were already on the team so he agreed to give it a try. Not only did Ryne pick it up pretty quickly, but he really enjoyed it and was able to contribute to the team’s success.

But that is not surprising to anyone who knows Ryne. Besides his natural athleticism, Ryne brings an easy going spirit, a smile on his face and a positive ‘can do’ attitude to everything he does. It is that combination that prompted his coach to nominate him for the Special Olympics World Games.

Just so you know, World Games is a VERY BIG deal. They take place every two years and are the flagship event of the Special Olympics movement. This year they are being held in Los Angeles July 25th- August 2nd. More than 7,000 athletes from 177 nations will compete in 25 Olympic-type sports. They anticipate 30,000 volunteers and 500,000 spectators. The games will even be broadcast on ESPN.

According to Special Olympics Illinois, the USA team will include 304 athletes and 43 unified partners competing in 17 sports, 102 volunteer coaches and 42 sports and management team volunteers. All 50 states will be represented. Ryne has been selected as a member of Team USA, specifically one of 11 athletes making up the Team Illinois soccer team.

“Ryne’s really a perfect candidate,” boasts his dad when asked what he thought about Ryne being selected after playing only one season of soccer. “He plays soccer well, he is very verbally engaging and has such a positive attitude with everything he does.” Jack’s pride in his son comes through in both his words and his beaming smile. “We are really proud of him. It has been amazing to watch his development in all the sports he plays, including soccer.”

Ryne Stolarz and familyRyne is taking this honor very seriously and his dedication is surprisingly self motivated. Working hard on developing his skills, he practices 5 days a week, goes to two different gyms when he can’t practice outside and has even been practicing his dribbling and passing in the house this winter. He gets weekly warm-ups/skills/drills schedules from the coach and keeps a log of all his practice time.

Not surprising is that he likes the camaraderie of the team the most. “I like the coach,” says Ryne. “She tells us we have to communicate on the field and talk to each other. That’s how we will gel as a team. I like the training method. It makes me a better athlete.”

He also says he gets along well with his team mates. Since the athletes are from all over Illinois, they don’t get together for regular practices like a typical team. To date, the team has only been able to practice/play together a handful of times. They played together in Indianapolis in October, at a tournament in March, and will play once more in May before heading to Los Angeles. Ryne looks forward to each time they get together.

He is thrilled about the entire experience. “I was excited to get the call about being on the team,” he says. “Now I’m excited about meeting all the athletes from different countries and the opening and closing ceremonies.” Since being selected for World Games, Ryne can’t seem to get enough of soccer or the World Games online. He is constantly updating the family on the latest statistics and information he finds about either one.

Kyle, Ryne’s older brother, notes that watching sports, talking about sports, or supporting each other at games was the first thing they had in common and has remained a bond over the years. Kyle is excited about the opportunity coming Ryne’s way and amazed at the dedication he is showing in preparing for World Games.

Most of all he is proud of who Ryne has become. “I’ve learned a lot from Ryne, mostly about his positive outlook on life,” he says. “I am so proud of him because this is an awesome payoff to all his hard work and positive outlook.”

What does Ryne say about the whole experience so far, “I am officially famous!”

To learn more about Special Olympics Team USA and to follow the World Games, visit www.specialolympicsteamusa.org, follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SOTeamUSA, Twitter@SOTeamUSA, Instagram: SOTeamUSA.




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