Rookie coach enjoying first State Tournament

posted Sat, Mar 28, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Newark Dragons head coach Eric Hastings talks to his team during a timeout in the middle of Saturday's preliminary games at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Nearly 1,000 players, family members and volunteers attended the Opening Ceremony.

Volunteers from 21st Century Insurance and Judy Marvel Charities provided the necessary support throughout the event.

More than 50 children ages 2 - 7 participated in a Young Athletes demonstration.

More than 450 athletes and Unified partners competed on 41 teams in the State Tournament.

Recent Delaware graduate Eric Hastings has always had a passion for basketball. First as a player, then a color commentator on the radio, and now as a head coach.

After graduating from UD in May 2014, Hastings considered heading back home to Laurel. Instead, he made the decision to get a job here in Newark and at the same time give back to the community. He chose Special Olympics as his charity of choice.

“By staying in Newark, I was afforded the opportunity to be involved with SODE during my free time,” said Hastings, who is employed by the Delaware Safety Council.

Hastings is finishing up his first year as the head coach for one of the Newark Dragons' basketball teams. His team is one of 41 competing in the annual State Tournament at the Bob Carpenter Center on March 28-29.

“Basketball has been one of my biggest passions in my life,” said Hastings, who served as a broadcaster for UD games on the WVUD network. “I always wanted to coach so I could share the love I have for the game with others.”

Hastings' passion for basketball is matched only by his desire to work with people with intellectual disabilities. His girlfriend and assistant coach, Kelsey Edmond, has a sister with an intellectual disability, and the time spent with her has significantly impacted his life.

“I signed up to coach because of Kelsey's family, and it meant a lot that she could coach with me, too,” Hastings said. “Her sister has made a great impact on me over the years and made me appreciate everything that I have.”

Hastings was raised in a family that always supported people with disabilities and the organizations that serve them. His mother is a paraprofessional in Maryland, and has worked with students with intellectual disabilities for as long as he can remember.

“It's because of her heart and dedication to her students that I wanted to make an impact too,” Hastings explained.

Hastings’ team lost its first preliminary round game Saturday. But like any good coach, he already knew what the Dragons needed to work on before its next game.

“Rebounding was the difference,” he said shortly after the game. “I already told the team we need to work on going to the ball and rebounding rather than watching the ball.”

Despite the setback, Hastings was proud of his team’s effort.

“They had a good attitude for the most part,” he pointed out. “I liked their competitiveness. We see their personalities at practice but in the games they come out times ten. It was a good time.”

In addition to the team tournament spread over two days, a dozen athletes competed in an individual skills event and more than 50 children ages 2 – 7 participated in a Young Athletes demonstration supported by Judi Marvel Charities.

The tournament, which is sponsored by 21st Century Insurance, continues Sunday with games beginning at 9 a.m. and running through the afternoon.