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Volunteering at the AAU Junior Olymipics

I’d never been to Detroit, but then I’d never really had the desire to go, either. All this changed last month. At a time when everyone else seems to be leaving, the AAU Junior Olympics descended on Motown last month, the event bringing countless athletes along with a contingent of soon-to-be optometrists to the city.

Similar to the athletes who were ready to test their well-honed skills, I was excited to show my stuff at my first vision screening. This wasn’t just a few hours at a community center either–this was the big league. We’re talking about three jam-packed days of screening some of the best junior athletes and their families, and all thanks to Vistakon, it was completely free! The athletes and their families got a thorough check-up, the attending doctors were able to gain valuable data for research, and I got three nights in a hotel plus dinners paid for.

The ICO contingent, ready to go!

After arriving and spending a few hours setting up in a large downtown convention center, I was excited to get started and delve into all that first year knowledge I had accumulated.  After setting up all the tests and looking at the equipment, I realized that over the summer I had either forgotten everything I had ever learned, or there were some new instruments that I had never seen. Turns out it was a mixture of the two.

Being a sports screening event, there were many tests geared toward athletes that aren’t customary in a normal eye examination. We tested hand speed, reaction times and hand-eye coordination tasks, along with many of the standards such as visual acuities and depth perception. After a quick refresher course and run-through of the new stuff, we were ready to go. Eight students and two doctors from ICO, twelve students and two docs from Indiana University’s School of Optometry, and one student from the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University all worked together in one flawless unit. Flawless might be pushing it, but it was pretty damn close!

Hard at work collecting King-Devick baseline data

There were nine stations, all run by a pair of students. The athletes would check in at the front desk, receive their clipboard and data sheet, and travel station to station, where the students would administer the task at hand and record the results. Once the athletes had completed their journey, they would check in with one of the doctors to have the results analyzed and discuss what it all meant. This process continued from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for three full days.

Just another test I had to learn

One of the best parts, apart from perfecting my entrance testing skills, were the few breaks we had to wander the facilities and check out some of the events. I never knew some of them even existed–everything from jump rope to powerlifting! As I meandered through the crowds, I was constantly impressed by the level of competition and athletic ability present in the various age groups. I saw a six-year-old doing triple-unders with a jump-rope for a minute straight in one corner, then went to the next section and saw a 17-year-old squat close to 700 pounds. My mind was blown even more than my body would be if I were to perform either of those tasks… which I certainly could never do.

One of the new events that also seemed to be one of the most popular was the sport stacking competition. This event consists of twelve plastic cups that need to be arranged into a series of three patterns as fast as possible. I never knew that hands and cups could move that fast. Not only that, but there were countless categories within the sport stacking competition. Check out this video in which I make the mistake of challenging a pair of talented kids who work as a team, each only using one hand to complete the patterns. These kids had never worked together before and still were able to beat me easily, even after my day of practicing!

As much as the screening was the main portion of the trip, we did manage to get out and experience a bit of the city itself. Dinners downtown, world-famous hot dogs at American Coney Island, catching a Tigers game at Comerica Park–one night I was even fortunate enough to win a whopping $20 at the casino! Overall, it was a blast of a trip and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. The crew who made the trip was a great mix, and being able to chat and network with students at the other optometry schools led to a whole lot of fun.  Not only were we able to screen and help out countless athletes, but it also served as a remarkable learning experience for me. I was surely glad I participated and I can’t wait for the AAU Junior Olympics next year… Des Moines, here I come!

#Detroit #AAUJuniorOlympics #KingDevick #Vistakon #sportstacking #DetroitTigers #AmericanConeyIsland #ComericaPark #sportsvisionscreening



3241 S. Michigan Ave.

Chicago, IL 60616


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