Sports: UCO's Endeavor

Written by Mindy Wood in the July 2010 Issue

On July 10, UCO will host the 2010 Worlds Sitting Volleyball Championship games. For a university that regularly meets the needs of athletes with physical impairments, it seems only fitting that they would enjoy the honor.

The university is home to the Endeavor Games and is a Paralympic Training Site, designated in 2005 by the U.S. Paralympics. The honor of hosting the world tournament is especially meaningful to Mark Herrin, Assistant Vice President of Wellness and Sport. He remembers how one conversation started it all.

In 2002, Herrin was head coach for the women’s volleyball team while his assistant coach, Bill Hamiter, was working with a sitting volleyball team. Every month, Hamiter took them to the Colorado Springs Paralympic Training Site to practice.

“It was a huge burden for him to travel out there, and really in order for the team to be successful they needed to practice more,” said Herrin. “The program needed a home. Bill said, ‘do you think UCO would be interested in housing the paralympic volleyball program?’ I told him, ‘you never know, anything’s possible’.”

Over the next few years, Herrin accepted the task of launching the Wellness Center and became the Director. Shortly after, they began plans to host the Endeavor Games. Herrin was thrilled when the sports group who owned the Endeavor Games accepted his invitation to house their offices in the Wellness Center. A few years later, they were courting the U.S. Paralympics.

Planning a world sized event doesn’t happen overnight. “We knew about it three years ago and started planning then,” said Herrin. “There are multiple layers to putting on this event. We created a number of key committees for food services, safety and security, medical services, just to name a few. Each group had a plan and worked to stay within budget. We did a lot of fundraising so we worked to bring on a lot of corporate sponsors.”

When organizing an international event of this magnitude, considerations have to be given to cultural differences, language barriers and national tensions between warring countries. Catering needs to be taken into consideration when planning meals for international tastes.

Herrin believes hosting the event is a compliment to the Edmond community. “For Edmond, we’ve always touted ourselves as the sports capital of Oklahoma and this is just another piece of that, which frankly no one else has,” he said. “We’re unique in that respect because few communities in the nation can boast that they have as comprehensive a program as we have here. We’re the only university in the U.S. that is an Olympic
Training Site. Without question, it’s an honor to be associated with that group.”

For Herrin and his team at the Wellness Center, their work is deeply seated in their hearts as they watch their athletes succeed.

“When you’re part of something from the beginning and you see it grow, you become attached and personally invested into it. They know we’re all in this together to help them succeed,” Herrin said. “The bottom line is we’re affecting lives. UCO’s been doing that for over 100 years as a university, but we’ve been able to reach out to another group in a way that no other university can and impact their lives.”

Watch UCO’s athletes take the world stage July 10 through the 18. For tickets or more information, visit www.2010worlds.com

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