Meegan Lucore got a phone call she didn’t expect to get. The call was from a representative from Mark Twain Elementary School, and the voice on the other end of the line had a question they wanted to ask Lucore.

“Would it be okay if Levi joined the basketball team?”

For most parents, getting their child to join a school sports team wouldn’t involve a lot of deep thinking. However, Levi is not like most kids. Levi, 10, has Down syndrome and, like any parent, Lucore wanted to make sure she didn’t put her child in a situation that was too much for him to handle.






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in hardwood and stealing the show




“There was a lot of apprehension and fear that it wouldn’t go well and fear of his behaviors that aren’t 100% appropriate,” Lucore said. “And there was the fear that the other boys really didn’t want him in the team. But that fear was alleviated by the fact that the coaches, the sporting director and everyone were asking him to play. They were asking him to play because he was constantly on the basketball courts playing basketball, shooting hoops and learning to play ball. It was just a natural gravitation towards the school team.

The decision was made for Levi to join the Badgers on hardwood, and it’s a decision Lucore hasn’t regretted for a second.

“It brought him maturity,” Lucore said. “There’s a more mature Levi playing basketball. He started messing around during practices, during the boring stuff and the hard stuff, he was laying down and not moving. And now that doesn’t happen at all He sees himself as part of this team and he does everything they do…. It’s great for him to have to step up and do all the hard stuff, as well as the fun stuff that everyone else does. kids, and there were no exceptions for him. He has to do it all.”






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in hardwood and stealing the show




When Mark Twain athletic director Eric Peters approached fifth-year coach Jeff Eltringham with the idea of ​​including Levi on the basketball team, Eltringham had no objections. Eltringham, like all the boys on the team, has known Levi for years – as he also has a fifth-year son on the team – and he was happy to include Levi.

“Just having him involved in something like this is awesome,” Eltringham said. “All the kids grew up together and everyone was looking forward to having him in the team. Without a doubt, it was an easy decision.

When Lucore agreed to let Levi play, she wanted to make sure he wouldn’t get any special treatment. In basketball, just like in life, there are expectations and rules to be followed, and she wanted to make sure her son was expected to follow all the rules, just like everyone else on the team.






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in the hardwood and stealing the show




“I always wanted him to be treated like any other kid,” Lucore said. “I know it’s difficult when a child has obvious delays that make them different. Even at home, the same discipline that we use with our typically developing daughter, we use with Levi. If he acts, he’s in trouble. He must eat all the food on his plate. He has to get dressed. He must be on time. He has to do his homework and here (in the basketball team) it’s the same thing.

If there’s one thing Levi doesn’t miss, it’s his friends. Even before joining the basketball team, Levi was one of Mark Twain’s most popular children. However, there are opponents who do not know Levi and, as children tend to do, will say things without understanding the person to whom their comments are directed. And when Lucore hears such talk, she approaches the situation calmly and uses it as a teaching opportunity.

“We were at a basketball game recently, and the kids were making fun of Levi during warmups, and they called him a midget,” Lucore said. “I just walked up to them and asked them if they knew what Down syndrome was, and I said, ‘This is Levi. Not “dwarf”. His name is Levi, and I have to tell you something about Down syndrome. Then I explained it, and I was always very proactive.






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in hardwood and stealing the show




And while Lucore insists Levi has never been bullied, she knows there’s a team full of friends who would stand up for him. One of those teammates is Anthony Colwell, who has been best friends with Levi for five years.

“I would tell them to stop or go tell an adult,” Colwell said of what he would do if he ever saw Levi being bullied.

Lucore added: “A number of the boys on his team have known him since kindergarten. We used to call them “Levi’s thugs”, because they were so kind and protective of him. They also happened to be big boys, so he always had a bit of protection against those kids. I hope this will continue into adulthood in this small community.






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in hardwood and stealing the show




There’s no doubt that Levi wants to be on the pitch. Even though Eltringham or head coach Brock Pierce don’t have him among the five in the game, Levi has been known to casually wander the floor after a timeout or at the quarter change, and that’s only when someone realizes it. there are six red jerseys on the floor, does Levi’s plan fall apart.

“He likes to play, and he even goes so far as to say to me, ‘When am I going?'” Eltringham said. “He knows exactly what’s going on and he wants to be out there in front of all those people. He steals the show all the time.

When he’s on the court, Levi doesn’t shy away from attention. If he or a teammate makes a basket, Levi will run down the court and flex his arms like he’s Hulk Hogan trying to rock the crowd. Levi’s antics not only make those present smile, but also make his teammates laugh.






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in the hardwood and stealing the show




“He’s got a lot of people cheering him on, and he’s a really funny person,” Colwell said.

Although Levi likes to entertain the crowd, when asked what he likes best about basketball, he replied, “I like to shoot.”

But not every moment on the hardwood is filled with smiles and laughter. Basketball is a contact sport and since Levi is expected to play the same game as everyone else, sometimes things just don’t go his way.






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in hardwood and stealing the show




“A few times the coaches set him up and as he was dribbling the ball the ball was stolen from him,” Lucore said. “Well, it’s basketball. He’s been punched in the face twice, and he’s got braces on, so his lips were bloody and my response was, ‘It’s basketball, and it’s going to happen. reproduce”. Do you want to continue playing?’ And he always says “Yes” and he gets right back into it.

Levi went through a lot during his first year of basketball at Mark Twain. The only thing he hasn’t experienced is how it feels to lose. The Badgers have beaten every opponent they have faced, but even if they didn’t, Lucore doesn’t think his son would treat the game any differently.






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in hardwood and stealing the show




“They haven’t lost a game, but for Levi he thinks being there is a win,” Lucore said. “Losing is not in his understanding when he plays. I think if they lost he would still feel like he won because he played.

With the end of the season, Levi has already expressed that he would like to play in sixth. And for Eltringham, he hopes one of his most popular players will continue his basketball journey.

“He’s just a lovely kid,” Eltringham said. “We’re grateful to have him. It’s been one hell of a blast.






Down syndrome doesn't stop Levi Lucore from participating in the hardwood and stealing the show




As for Lucore, seeing what organized sports has done for her son has been an incredible discovery not only for herself, but also for her husband and 15-year-old daughter, Reata. Lucore has seen firsthand the impact sports and being on a team have had on Levi, and she hopes other parents can find something that can influence their children in a positive way.

“As a parent, you are the expert on your child,” Lucore said. “You know what their weaknesses and strengths are. Find where they can connect, and sports are a great way to connect and become more of a part of your community. If it’s not school-organized sports, consider other activities like karate, martial arts, music, or dance lessons. There’s so much you can do, and it’s so worth it, and your family will be stronger, and you’ll get to know your child even better.