On May 16, the Kendets Unified Basketball Team played against the Holley Hawks’ team in the Kendall JSHS Gym. This is the fourth year that Kendall and Hilton merged together to form a team. Unified sports brings together students with cognitive disabilities and those without to compete together on an authentic school team. While this program provides an opportunity to play a sport, it also promotes understanding of differences and displays how these differences can be overcome with the involvement of all. Kendall members of the team this year were: Amber Boger, Autumn Fitzwater, Jason Miller and Paige Valente, and student coaches Abby Collins and Justin Ryan.
What is it like to attend a Unified Sports basketball game? You’ll see and hear more direction given from coaches and teammates, so that players are at the right end of the court and in their proper position. There’s more kindness exhibited, with players handing off the ball to teammates who haven’t had a chance to make a basket yet. There’s plenty of supportive cheering from the stands, as Hilton and Kendall friends and families, as well as the opposing team’s fans, encourage all players to shoot for the basket, hustle down the court or pass to a teammate.
There’s a lot more dancing, not just at half-time, but at any time when there’s a time-out and dance music is playing. Both teams participate in the dancing, and spectators from the stands come down onto the court to dance with them. The referees indulge players with this break as they shake their heads and smile, waiting for the teams to be ready to resume play.
Fouls are still called. Players fight for possession of the ball. Mad basketball skills are exhibited as players streak down the court and attempt to sink a shot at the hoop. The action may or may not be as fast, but the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat for each team are the same. However, these players seem to let the wins and losses roll off their backs as they become anxious to participate in the next game, work on their ball-handling skills or cheer on their teammates. Everyone looks forward to the next season and how they will work together as a cohesive unit once again. With a successful support system like this, who wouldn’t want to participate?