For Joshua Holland, Special Olympics opened a door to the sports he wanted to pursue his whole life. What started out as a dream of becoming a swimmer changed into the pursuit of several dreams that the Special Olympics Dare County athlete turned into a reality.
When he first began swimming, he only knew how to keep his head above water, but with each practice, Holland pushed himself to learn as much as possible and slowly he perfected each stroke. As he swam, Holland felt as though he belonged in the water. Eventually, Holland branched out to try different sports. But after excelling in bowling, basketball, equestrian and athletics, Holland’s favorite sport remains swimming.
“It was really cool to gradually learn how to do all of the strokes,” said Holland.
Wanting to give swimming everything he had, Holland began lifting weights with a coach at his school in order to give himself a stronger pull and kick.
“It really made a world of difference for him, and not just physically,” said Kathleen Morgan, Dare County local program coordinator. “His confidence grew and he began coming out of his shell.”
As his confidence grew, Holland slowly began singing around his teammates and coaches.
“He has a true gift,” said Morgan. “We wanted him to share that with others, so we asked him to sing at an event.”
Though Holland reluctantly agreed to sing at Dare County’s Spring Games, a star was born on the stage that day. Holland asked that someone sing with him, but not long after they had started, the volunteer drifted off to let Holland sing alone.
“It felt really good to keep singing on my own,” expressed Holland.
Now, Holland not only sings the National Anthem at Special Olympics Dare County’s Spring Games, but at events all around the county. He even gained the confidence to sing at his high school’s talent show and felt exhilarated to be on the stage in front of his peers.
“He wouldn’t have had that confidence if he had not had the experiences with Special Olympics,” said Holland’s mother Anne.
Being a part of the Special Olympics Dare County Hurricanes Swim Team has changed Holland’s life in many ways. From chasing dreams and turning them into passions, Holland has been able to conquer things he originally thought to be out of his reach.
Swimming has even taken him as far as the state-level Summer Games in Raleigh, where he got to stay on NC State University’s campus. He enjoyed competing and medaling in his events, but what truly stuck with him was seeing what college life could be like.
“I never really thought about college, but that experience definitely made me think that I could do it,” Holland explained.
Now, Holland plans on attending College of the Albemarle Community College after he graduates high school this year.
The confidence Holland has gained through Special Olympics has carried over into other parts of his life. For him, Special Olympics is about more than just sports; it is about embracing his dreams, no matter what they are.
Congratulations on being named SONC’s 2017 March Athlete of the Month, Joshua!
Car: Corvette, because it is FAST!
TV Show: “Chuck”