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Special assistant supports Salamanca Warriors from the sidelines

By DEB EVERTS Special to Olean Times Herald

A new face is on the sidelines helping the Salamanca Warriors football team this year.

Holden Sadler’s cheerful, never-give-up attitude makes him a hit with his friends and teammates as he passes the football during practice.

Holden, 14, is excited to take on the newest event in his life. With the guidance of his mother, LeeAnne Sadler, he assists head coach Chad Bartoszek and coach Jerry Parisi at practices and games.

Sadler said her son was born with Down syndrome and is currently the only child enrolled in the Salamanca City Central School District with the genetic disorder. He’s in eighth grade.

The Salamanca Warriors football team has Holden Sadler at their back assisting the coaches and helping from the sidelines. Shown are (from left) head coach Chad Bartoszek, Sadler and coach Jerry Parisi at practice.

Parisi, who is also director of special education at the district, does Individualized Education Program (IEP) plans for the special education students. When Parisi mentioned to Sadler at a meeting last year that he was a football coach, she asked him if there was anything Holden could do with the team.

“Holden loves football, and I really thought it would be good for him to be around all the kids and not be stuck on the couch at night on his tablet,” she said. “Coach Parisi suggested that he could be a ball boy or help manage. It’s up in the air exactly what Holden’s title is, but he’s on the team and the kids are great with him.”

Sadler said she is impressed with how the coaches and team have accepted her son. When the team is out practicing, Holden really gets into it. She said they’re going to let him dress in uniform and be on the sidelines.

“I like being on the team, but I don’t like running, kicking or throwing the ball,” Holden said. “I like tackling.”

“When they’re not practicing, the kids throw the ball back and forth with Holden to keep him busy,” his mother said. “The team members tell him what position they play and show him different moves. They help him find a way to participate, as well as to listen and follow directions.”

Whether or not Holden will play on game nights is still up in the air, according to his mother. She said it will probably depend on how the game is going and how the opposing school feels about it.

“They may opt to get him in for a run,” she said. “It would be really cool and I think this team would be all for it.”

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