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NJ Hawks Sports Philosophy & Policies

The NJ Hawks was founded to provide competitive recreational and social programs for children with special needs. The program has since evolved to encompass an even broader mission although participation in a variety of Special Olympics sports and leagues remain at the core of the program.


The NJ Hawks is an inclusive program, accepting all individuals who have expressed an interest in joining and we strive to serve the needs of all. Some participate in all of the sports and activities offered, some in only a single activity but all are welcome.


The Special Olympics leagues in which we compete have a variety of rules that we must adhere to, most notably roster size. In soccer and basketball, each team must have a minimum of 7 players and a maximum of 10. When assembling teams for league play coaches take into consideration a number of factors including athletic ability, age, competiveness, and ability to follow directions. Teams are composed as much as possible of players of similar ability. Attempts are always made to place classmates and friends together but ability is paramount to ensure player safety and the most positive experience for the maximum number of players. The purpose of adhering to these principles is to place the athletes in the best situation so as many as possible will derive a positive experience from the practices and games.


Coaches’ responsibilities include working with players to develop and enhance individual skills, build effective team play and increase the team’s level of competiveness. Parents must try to arrive at practices and games on time (30 minutes prior to games is a Special Olympics policy) with their children properly attired and ready to play. All children require adequate preparation time; this is particularly important for special needs children. There are no minimum playing time rules in any of the Special Olympics leagues we compete in. Regular season league games are used as a gauge to assess the appropriate competitive level of a team.


A sincere attempt is made to balance playing time over the course of a season. A player who plays most of one game will see reduced playing time in another game.

In addition, the focus and attention of our players vary widely from game to game and day to day impacting their interest and ability to follow directions.

Since this necessarily impacts the entire team, coaches have to take this into consideration during practices and games. In playoff and festival games when teams are competing for medals, the level of competition increases. In these situations, playing time will be balanced among the athletes with the goal of winning and advancing further into medal competition.


Soccer matches are 30 minutes and basketball games are 32 minutes. It is often difficult to provide everyone with substantive playing time although the coaches try hard to do so. In this light we attempt to keep the roster sizes as small as practicable and still have enough players for every game.


If a parent has any questions about the Hawks (most questions surround which team their child is placed on or the amount of playing time a child gets) they should feel free to contact the coach. Contact after a practice is the best time to speak with  a coach to discuss any issues. Of course an email or phone calls are appropriate or when both parties can conveniently meet. Typically, immediately after a game is not the best time to discuss playing time. Also, since we try to balance playing time over the course of a season, focusing upon a single game is not an accurate way to gauge many issues like playing time. If resolution of an issue cannot be achieved by speaking with a coach, a parent should feel free to contact the individual in charge of the specific sport or ultimately, our Local Training Program Coordinator.


The efforts of coaches and many other volunteers are vital to the growth and success of the New Jersey Hawks.  All of these efforts are focused upon the appropriate athletic and social development of our athletes. We ask all participants and parents to support these efforts and to please “assume good will” when contacting coaches or volunteers.

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