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Volunteers needed for sports program for adults with autism, other disabilities
Submitted by Taylor Duncan
January 2, 2021

Greetings Knoxville! My name is Taylor Duncan! I am 25 years old from Dallas, Georgia, and I have autism. I am also the commissioner/director of the Alternative Baseball Organization, a 501c3 authentic baseball experience for teens 15+ and adults with autism and other disabilities to gain social and physical skills for success in life on and off the diamond. It takes 6 months to fill a full team due to the lack of catered services available in most areas for teens and adults with disabilities. So in spite of the pandemic, recruitment for 2021 has begun virtually.

We are looking for a volunteer coach/manager, volunteers, and players to help us start a new program serving those in Knox County, Sevier County, and the surrounding area in addition to our other Mid-South programs in Greater Chattanooga, Nashville, Huntsville, Auburn, Meridian (MS), Greater Jackson (MS), Shreveport (LA), Houston (TX), Kerrville (TX), Spartanburg, Anderson, Greater NC Triad, Greater Charlotte, Greater Atlanta, Columbus (GA), Savannah (GA), Charleston (SC), and Louisville (KY) tentatively set to start in late Spring-summer 2021. We are different from other programs in that teams travel to other areas, play on traditional high school size fields, and play using the same rule-set as the pros on television. The organization provides equipment and resources to help such a program become successful.

When I was much younger, I had speech issues, anxiety issues, and more that came with having autism… I wasn't able to participate in competitive sports due to the developmental delays, in addition to social stigma (preconceived ideas) from those who think what one with autism can and cannot accomplish. With the help of my mom, teachers, mentors, and coaches who believed in me, I've gotten to where I am today in my life: To live with the goal to inspire, raise awareness, and acceptance for autism and special needs globally through the sport of baseball.

As many with autism graduate from high school in many areas, services plateau. In a lot of suburban and rural areas, there are no services for those to continue their path toward independence. Many travel to find the limited services which may or may not be available to their specific needs. Realizing a lack of general incentive and opportunities for those on the spectrum, I started this organization to give others on the spectrum/special needs the opportunity to be accepted for who they are and to be encouraged to be the best they can be!

The program follows Major League rules (wood bats, base stealing, dropped third strike, etc.), and is a true typical team experience for others on the autism spectrum and special needs to help develop social skills for later in life. Alternative Baseball also has clubs in 30+ states who are also preparing for their late Spring start dates. In 2019, the organization was commemorated as a Community Hero at an Atlanta Braves game and has been featured on ESPN's BASEBALL TONIGHT and NBC's Weekday TODAY Show.

I wanted to let you know we are looking for a volunteer coach/manager, players, and volunteers to help us start a new program serving those throughout Greater Knoxville and the surrounding area. Players can be of all experience levels. We take them from where they start out at (whether they require to be pitched to slow overhand or hit off the tee), and help develop their physical and social skills. I am available for interviews via Zoom or by phone (due to COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.) and can also provide a multitude of B-Roll footage through our Google Drive. Any help is appreciated! Thank you for your time! I look forward to serving your community for hopefully many years to come!

(See our segment from ESPN's Baseball Tonight. Also, please take at look at my TedXAtlanta talk on providing more opportunities in and outside of sports for those with autism and other special needs.

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