“Training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”
This is the principle that inspired Unified Sports throughout the country and has continued to inspire individuals all throughout the world. This program has reached all the way to countries such as Brazil, India, and many more; all to promote friendship and understanding through sport among people with and without disabilities. The United States has been taking part in Unified Sports since 2008 and has become increasingly popular with U.S schools in recent years. According to the Special Olympics Organization, “Unified Sports are now in more than 4500 elementary, middle, and high schools in the United States.” It is a growing program but one that should be recognized by more schools, as it is a way to bring together many students and create a happy environment for the students participating. BHS is one of the 4500 schools to take part in this rewarding opportunity, through basketball.
At Bedford High School, Unified Basketball is a popular sport in the winter that brings together students with and without disabilities to play as teammates and compete. They compete against other Unified basketball teams throughout the state over the course of the season. It is an inclusive sport that makes no cuts and welcomes anyone who wants to join the team. The team practices three days a week, working on making everyone on the team feel comfortable on the court. The practices consist of lay-up drills, passing drills, and anything else to get the players to have the skills to do well in their games. Along with drills during the practices, the team will play a few team bonding games. All of this practicing to get prepared for their games that take place throughout the winter season. During games, there will be three athletes and two partners on the court. The partners help out the athletes so that the athletes are able to play their best game possible. The goal of these games is for everyone on the court to build inclusion, create bonds, and have fun. But, do not let the fun fool you, the Unified basketball games are very competitive and everyone on the court wants to go home with a victory. The athletes are not afraid to be aggressive and their motivation on the court is to win. Even with a loss, the athletes go home raising their head high because everyone on the team puts in their full effort and leaves everything out on the court.
The students that participate in Unified basketball have nothing but nice things to say about their experience playing and the overall environment of the team. Junior Courtney Dermody has been a part of the Unified team for two years now and says that “It is a very fun and positive environment to be in. Unified isn’t just helping the athletes play basketball there are so many little moments that brighten my day. The Unified program is definitely a special one.” Unified is much more than a sport, it really unifies students here at BHS. Sophomores, Abby Rocco and Olivia Toolin, are both on the Unified team for the first time this year. Olivia describes Unified as being “a very positive and competitive environment that is just great to be a part of, everyone is so welcoming and you are guaranteed to have fun!” And Abby describes the team as being “close-knit, encouraging, friendly, and filled with nice people.” Here at BHS, the Unified basketball team is truly filled with a sense of unity, providing friendliness and encouragement to all.
Unified is losing many seniors this year and will need people to join next year. The team welcomes all who want to join!