Unified basketball is a special sport
The opportunity for all high school students, with or without intellectual disabilities, to participate in competitive sports has been given a big boost with the addition of the sport of Unified Basketball in three Orleans County school districts – Kendall, Holley and Medina.
It is the second year for the sport at Kendall and Holley and the first at Medina.
A New York State Public High School Athletic Association sanctioned sport and a registered program of Special Olympics, Unified Basketball teams are comprised of “approximately equal numbers of athletes with and without intellectual disability for training and competition,” according to the Section V handbook which adds that “all Unified Sports teams are placed in competitive divisions based on their skill abilities and range from training divisions to high level competition.”
“To see students with and without intellectual disabilities working together to promote unity, inclusion, and sportsmanship — while competing in a NYSPHSAA sanctioned sport — is one of the best experiences I have had in 11 years serving as an athletic director,” said Kendall High Athletic Director Kevin Watson. “To me, the Unified Sports program is the closest thing I have seen to a service learning opportunity for students in an athletic setting. ”
Kendall Senior Unified Basketball participant Clancy Frearson, who has a cousin with an intellectual disability, describes Unified Sports as one of the most rewarding experiences she has ever been involved with. She says, “I could be having the worst day but when I walk into the gym for practice– the environment is heart-warming.” She continues, “The setting is perfect — I’m not looking at the players as being disabled — I am looking at them as basketball players. We are equal.”
Watson agrees and says, “All students want to be accepted by their peers and feel a part of a team.”
“By combining with Hilton the past two years, Kendall athletes have also been able to experience life in a big school. The Kendets (The team’s adopted mascot combining Cadet and Kendall) travel all over Monroe County to play opponents.” notes Watson.
He adds, “Working with Hilton’s athletic program and their athletic director Mike Girizzi, as well as Hilton’s Special Education program has been an additional bonus to this newly adopted program). We are very fortunate to have the backing of such a highly regarded program as Hilton.
Kendall’s Co-Coach is School Psychologist Sue Smith and Hilton’s Co-Coach is varsity basketball Coach Troy Prince.
The Kendall-Hilton team will host Churchville–Chili at Hilton on Wednesday and then host Brockport at Kendall at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.