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updated: 6/12/2014 11:29 AM

Schaumburg Special Olympian a true team player

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  • Nick Joseph, 20, will play soccer for Team Illinois in this month's Special Olympics 2014 USA Games, which kick off Saturday in New Jersey. A seven-sport athlete, the Schaumburg resident says playing soccer is "very addicting."

       Nick Joseph, 20, will play soccer for Team Illinois in this month's Special Olympics 2014 USA Games, which kick off Saturday in New Jersey. A seven-sport athlete, the Schaumburg resident says playing soccer is "very addicting."
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
By Kevin Modelski
kmodelski@dailyherald.com

Nick Joseph was scoring at will during a seventh-grade Special Olympics basketball game when his coach gave him an ultimatum.

Because his team was winning comfortably, and because Nick was a "scoring machine," his choices were either to be taken out of the game and rest, or to pass the ball to everybody else so they could have an opportunity to score.

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Nick chose the latter, proving to his parents, Don and Sue Ophus, and others how important teamwork is to him.

He will carry that attitude to New Jersey this week as a member of the Team Illinois soccer squad set to compete at the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games.

Nick, 20, of Schaumburg is involved in seven sports -- floor hockey, volleyball and basketball to name a few -- but he's been playing soccer through Special Olympics and Schaumburg Elementary School District 54 since he was 8 years old.

"Soccer is very addicting," Nick said. "You want to score, you want to save, you want to score again -- it's like playing a video game."

Nick is a "super senior" and an Honor Roll student at Hoffman Estates High School, where he is part of the school's Adult Transition Program. The program takes students who are 18 to 22 years old and teaches them life skills and independent living strategies.

When he isn't at school, you could probably find Nick shooting hoops, playing soccer and staying active with the sports he loves, Sue Ophus said.

"I'm surprised I have so much energy," Nick said. "I'm very, very active."

Nick and his teammates have been conditioning and perfecting their soccer strategy with coach David Luzwick, the District 54 Special Olympics coordinator, before they head off to New Jersey. But Nick has more goals in mind than winning.

"I want to be a leader and help people out," Nick said. "That's my goal in real life: To stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves."

In the future, Nick said he plans to maintain his involvement with Special Olympics and strive to continue the selfless attitude he carries on and off the soccer field.

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