There are a lot of great athletes.
But there are far fewer great athletes who are also great teammates.
Those are the special ones. They’re, oh, so valuable.
The fact Tamita Pickett and Winnfried Schroeder are firmly entrenched in the latter category — and may even be better teammates than they are athletes — is why the two Medina residents are the Special Olympians being honored at this year’s Medina County Sports Hall of Fame banquet.
Along with this year’s HOF inductees, The Gazette’s top county high school athletes and coaches from the 2012-13 school year and two other special teams, Pickett and Schroeder will be feted at the 28th annual event, set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at The Galaxy in Wadsworth.
Pickett, who joined Special Olympics in 2004, has been on state tournament-qualifying teams in all of the sports she has competed in — aquatics, unified and individual bowling, basketball and tennis.
In unified sports, half the team is Special Olympians and the other half are partners from the community, be they family, friends or anyone willing to participate.
But Pickett may have experienced the most success in basketball, where she has been a member of three different squads that made it to state.
In her second year, the team captured the state championship in Division II. It placed second in the third year and was fourth in the first year.
Pickett was at her best on the biggest stage, scoring a season high in the state title game that second year while playing guard and forward. She was “a big part of the team winning,” according to her coaches.
But no matter what the sport, her versatility is what really stands out, which is where her value as a teammate comes in.
Coach Kathy Miller pointed out Pickett is the eiptome of “a team player. She does whatever needs to be done for the good of the team. From a coaching perspective, this gives the coach the opportunity to utilize this type of player for different strategies.”
In basketball, for instance, Pickett usually serves as the point guard, bringing the ball up the floor. But as the forwards get tired and the team needs more size, she moves to the front court and does the job there as well.
The topping to it all is her work ethic and attitude in every sport.
Pickett’s coaches point out she is “a joy to have as she gives 110 percent all the time. She accepts criticism and puts it to use during practice time. During games, she is a fierce competitor, but she also shows great sportsmanship to her teammates and to the other teams. If someone makes a good play or a good score, she will compliment the player. High fives are definitely part of her contributions.”
As for Schroeder, he has been an extremely busy athlete, competing in track and field, basketball, bocce ball, unified and individual bowling, unified golf, soccer and tennis.
Bowling might be his best sport. Several years ago, he competed in the Unified National Bowling Tournament. He and his partner finished second in individual action and his team placed first.
Soccer, though, might be Schroeder’s favorite sport. His coaches describe him as “a great offensive player. He runs close to the goal and then fires it into the net.”
But like Pickett, what Schroeder gives most to his teammates and coaches can’t be measured. It doesn’t show up on any statistical sheet.
It’s a mindset.
“Coaching Winnfried is easy,” Miller said. “He comes to practice prepared and on time. He is ready to do what the coach asks of him.
“He also is a great help as he carries equipment and other essentials to the field. Sportsmanship is one of Winnie’s best assets. He congratulates his own teammates as well as the other team should they make a great play or score.”
Schroeder and Pickett turn in great individual performances, but at the same time, they make sure to put their teams first. That’s paramount.
And it is the stuff of Hall of Famers, which is why it’s appropriate that these two special Special Olympians will be honored at this year’s Medina County Sports Hall of Fame banquet.
Contact Steve King at firstname.lastname@example.org.