Family Edition: Dooley siblings are each other's biggest fansBy GIUSEPPE UNGARO
Delaney Dooley, a three-sport athlete at Holy Spirit High School, loves to compete. But the junior may enjoy being a spectator even more when it comes to her little brother.
The Holy Spirit standout likes nothing more than watching her 16-year-old brother, Patrick, a special needs student at the Y.A.L.E. School at Cedar Creek High School, play baseball and basketball. The younger Dooley is a baseball fanatic, taking part in both the spring and fall leagues at the South Jersey Field of Dreams in Absecon, and also playing basketball in the winter in the Hoops-for-All program in Margate.
“I love watching him play. He loves baseball. That is his favorite sport,” said Delaney, who is 17 and swims, cheers and rows for the Spartans. “Watching his face light up, seeing how happy he is on a team. When he hits that ball and runs the bases, seeing his expression is awesome to me — seeing how happy he is.”
No one appreciates Delaney’s support more than Patrick, who has autism. He adores his big sister, and loves that she comes to watch him play, swatting base hits as a member of the Cubs in the Field of Dreams league.
“I love my big sister and I love when she comes to my games and cheers me on,” Patrick said through an e-mail, as transcribed my his mother, Bridget. “She’s the best big sister in the world.”
The relationship the siblings have is special by any measurement. Of course, there are times when it’s like any other sibling relationship, but there is unquestionably a special bond between the two. Both are protective of one another and want nothing but the best for each other.
“He absolutely inspires me every day. There’s the typical, he has it harder than me so I should keep pushing harder. That is entirely true. If he has it harder than the rest of us in terms of communication skills and social skills, then I should be able to push through this last lap of swimming or I can be able to push through this last 250 meters (rowing),” Delaney said. “I can push myself because I know he will be there supporting me. I know he enjoys watching the football games, he will be at my swim meet, and my crew meets.
“He inspires me to be best athlete I can because I know he will be there watching. I know he has it harder than me sometimes, so I feel like I don’t want to let him down and I don’t want to give up. I want to show him that I can keep going.”
Playing baseball and basketball and attending his sister’s events are a big part of helping Patrick improve his social skills. He looks forward to all her events.
“My favorite is going to the football games to cheer her on because I like to watch football, too,” Patrick said. “Mom and dad always say I’m Delaney’s biggest fan, and I am. It’s hard sometimes to spend the long hours at crew, but I go because I love her.”
Sports have always been a huge part of the Dooley family, bringing each member closer to each other. Bridget, a cheerleading coach at Holy Spirit, has been her daughter’s coach all three years at Holy Spirit, and coached her for a few seasons as part of the Absecon Blue Devils.
While they were cheering on the Blue Devils, Delaney and Patrick’s father, Daren, coached for the Blue Devils football program with his son by his side.
Now the family’s schedule is filled with events for both Delaney and Patrick. In the fall, Bridget coaches Delaney on the cheerleading team. The mother-and-daughter team believes they are blessed to spend that extra time together during the fall season.
However, when it comes to practice and football games under the lights, it is a coach-athlete relationship, with the coach admitting she may be a little tougher on Delaney than others.
“It gives us time together. It’s our special time together. Having a son with special needs, it can be difficult to get that one-on-one with her. It is a great way to do that,” said Bridget, who works for AtlantiCare.
She added: “As a mom, when she achieves something at school, I admire her. It’s not always easy being a coach’s kid. It’s not easy when the other kids have to turn in their pom-pom or raffle money, and they turn it in to Delaney, and say, ‘can you give this to your mom?’ It’s not easy being that kid, but she handles it with style and grace.”
“My Mom is really my support system for all the sports I do, even though in cheerleading with her being my coach, she still supports me through my other two sports,” said Delaney, who swims mostly sprint events and is in the second varsity-eight boat. “During football season and cheerleading she supports me, just in a different way, through a coach’s perspective. I kind of view her almost more like a coach than my mom. She still supports me, but I view her as my coach like any other coach I have.”
Daren and Bridget can be proud of both of their children for many reasons, but especially for the love and kindness they show each other.
“They have an amazing relationship,” Daren said. “Just seeing how my daughter supports my son. She rarely misses an event. It goes the other way, too. He is often at her sporting events.
“They really are each other’s biggest fans.”
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu