Have you heard about the “Ike Special”? You most likely heard about Ike Ditzenberger on your local morning news, as a human interest story, or caught his video on You Tube. If you haven’t, Ike Ditzenberger is a football player with Down Syndrome. He loves the sport and his two older brothers both played football competitively. It wasn’t enough to cheer his brothers on from the crowd, he wanted to play too. This is when his parents paid a visit to Mark Perry, Snohomish High School's head coach. Fast forward a couple of years to a routine game against Lake Stevens, with 10 seconds left and Snohomish down 35 - 0, Ike Ditzenberger ran for a 51-yard touchdown that was their only score. According to a piece ran by the Heraldnet.com, it is the same play that ends each Snohomish practice, and it is called the “Ike Special”. The Coaches and players from Lake Stevens, after talking with Coach Perry, allowed Ike to score but made it look and feel as believable as possible. Take a look for yourself below:
This is a wonderful human interest piece and the coaches and players from Lake Stevens should be applauded for their part in it, but, in my opinion, the true hero in this story is Coach Mark Perry from Snohomish High School. Coach is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as one who instructs or trains; especially: one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a competitive sport and directs team strategy. In a world that determines success for a Coach by how many games they have won or lost it’s nice to see a Coach willing to provide the effort necessary to truly instruct and train his players in all aspects of life. What do I mean by this? Let’s see what happened in that meeting a couple of years ago between Ike’s parents and Coach Perry and every day since. According to the www.Heraldnet.com story:
“Young man (to Ike), you can be on my team for the next four years,” Coach Perry said. “But you've got to lose that gut.”
Perry's welcoming attitude — and sense of humor — delighted the Ditzenbergers. The coach has “a really generous heart. He sets the tone for the whole team,” Kay Ditzenberger said. “They see him embracing Ike and treating him with respect and then they (the players) do the same thing.”
In a recent interview with the Heraldnet.com, Coach Perry said:
I make him (Ike) a deal," Perry told the Everett Herald. "‘If you keep your shoulder pads on and your mouth piece in, you're going to get a play."
Coaches always preach hard work to their players, to get the best out of them, but Coach Perry didn’t shy away from the hard work necessary to have Ike on his team. Just look at the statement above, Coach Perry patiently instructs and teaches Ike what is needed from him in order to participate on the football team. These lessons will also carry over to the rest of Ike’s life. Coach Perry is also teaching his other football players to treat every human being with respect and kindness. Respect and kindness is not your typical football motto but with Coaches like Mark Perry maybe it will become more commonplace.