The Phoenix Police Department radio code for a suspicious person or activity is 647. It’s a call for backup. Head Special Olympics USA 3x3 Unified basketball coach Mary Roberts and assistant coach Mandy Faust have a combined 55 years of experience with the Phoenix Police Department and have used that code many a time. Now retired, the two have introduced the code to their team.
“So, we taught the girls, if there’s anyone who is making you feel uncomfortable and you need us to come and wrap our arms around you, the police code is 647 and that’s a suspicious person,” explained Mary. “They say, ‘647,’ and we go in between them and that person.”
There is a system in place to care for each other, to protect each other. In the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Mary coached a Unified men’s team. This time around, it’s a bit different. In the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023, the Arizona-based team is competing in the Men’s/Mixed Unified Sports Team Competition 3x3. Special Olympics Arizona hosted tryouts and filled the slots in the months leading to the Special Olympics World Games. Mary and Mandy knew the team would be up against teams comprised of predominantly male athletes and Unified partners, but they went for it anyway.
“We had a choice to make,” said Mary. “Either we quit and don’t play against the men, or we suit up and play against the men. We didn’t tell them about that in Arizona. Instead, coach Mandy and I started bringing in the men’s basketballs to practice. We put the women’s basketballs in our garage and went to work.”
Part of that work included scrimmaging against what their competition may look like. Some of their friends and teammates’ boyfriends suited up for a scrimmage. The team, though relatively new to working together, held their own. Athletes Lindsey Hayes and Vanessa Robles had little experience competing in basketball. Athlete Sarah Gaudio, team captain, had some of the necessary skills, but needed to hone them through training.
In 2015, Vanessa was the only female to compete on her gold-winning softball team in the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. Years later, her experience competing on the world stage looks the exact opposite.
“Being with all females is a lot more fun,” said Vanessa. “We have a lot of fun together. Hanging out with my teammates, they’re just fun, they’re just like sisters.”
Vanessa’s mom is a former dispatcher for the Phoenix Police Department, hearing her fair share of 647s. As a dispatcher, it’s crucial to be patient, to be sympathetic. Her daughter, Vanessa, has inherited those traits and has shaped them into a living, caring for her grandmother.
“It’s more like bonding time,” added Vanessa. “We talk about the Arizona Diamondbacks. I am a baseball fan, but I watch basketball.”
Vanessa spends her days caring for a loved one – always there when she’s needed. Whenever she needs the favor returned; she knows she can call a 647.