Rebecha McAuley – Hard work, Dedication, Commitment

Rebecha McAuley describes what it takes to become a Special Olympics Athlete.

“Let Me Win…” – The opening of the Special Olympics motto. Rebecha McAuley knows these words. She knows that if she cannot win, she must be “brave in the attempt.” It’s the motto that Rebecha will repeat when she lines out for Eastern Region at the Special Olympics Ireland Games in June. For now, they are not words to say. They are words to live by. Every single day.

You can see the sportswoman in this Bray native as soon as you meet her. She is kind, funny and outgoing. Underneath? The drive of a champion. She admits it herself.

“I like a challenge,” says the 25 year old. “Badminton is really good for that. You have to run, you have to move. You have to hit those shots over the head when you can. The better you are, the higher the level you can play at.”

Rebecha grew up in a Lakers Special Olympics Club uniform – Their name inspired by that great team of the 1980’s and stellar names like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. As a basketball club formed in Wicklow in 1989, their American namesakes were being dethroned as NBA champions. Abdul-Jabbar retired at the end of that season, but the showtime continued in Bray. Lakers added a bowling team. Then came recreational activities like art and cooking.

Almost 30 years later, Lakers Social & Recreational club has 314 registered members and 54 sessions a week. Rebecha is one of 41 athletes who will swap canary yellow for sky blue this summer. They have two Sports Officers ensuring they represent their region in peak condition. One of them is Graeme Hillick.

“It takes an awful lot of hard work, dedication and commitment for athletes to prepare for Ireland Games,” says Graeme, who will also attend the Games as a football coach. “It’s much more than just being selected. Rebecha is training up to six days a week and that’s just to compete in badminton.

“It starts with looking at her shoulder rotation. Jumping jacks and kettle bells replicate movement and strengthen her upper body. Lower body exercises help to get her around the court and the right cardio will keep her stamina up for the tournament. You have to be willing to put in the graft and Rebecca certainly is doing that.”

Ireland Games is in year three of Special Olympics Ireland’s four-year cycle. She has already come through local and regional advancement to be eligible for Ireland Games.

“I train so hard from the first to the last,” she says. “I got selected when I came back from holidays in Spain. The letter went through the letterbox at home. I opened the letter and they said I got selected for the 2018 Ireland Games. It was so exciting.

“I can’t wait for June. I’m going to try my best to fight for Gold.”

We’re getting to know Rebecha the sportswoman, now. With a role model like Katie Taylor, all that fighting talk makes sense. Then, all of sudden, you hear something new – something that makes her stand apart. Now, she is much more than a sports woman. She is a Special Olympics athlete.

“I’m going to meet new friends. I’m going to be nice to people. Make sure they’re okay. If anybody get’s hurt I’ll be there to help them.”

She wants to win. That’s why she’s there. Gold is great, but it won’t give you the time of your life. That’s what Ireland Games is about for all 1,500 athletes headed from the 32 counties to the capital. Fighting for gold is nothing without friendship.

“You get so much happiness and excitement out of it. It’s about challenging yourself. Try your best then have fun.” Challenge accepted.

You too can become part of this excitement. Volunteer at upcoming  Special Olympic Ireland Games to help athletes like Rebecha reach their full sporting potential.

If you are a resident of Ireland aged 16 or over and are available on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th of June 2018, then you can volunteer.

Check out the following link if volunteering in the Ireland Games interests you