APS Holds Inaugural Unified Basketball Game
Individuals with and without intellectual disabilities met for an afternoon of fun, community and inclusion through sports at Ashland Public Schools’ first-ever Unified Basketball game on Wednesday. The game against Norwood was held at Ashland High School. This inaugural game is part of a new Unified Sports initiative, a program that provides students with special needs the opportunity to participate in a team sport setting.
Under the leadership of coaches Holly LeBlanc and Crystal Lupinski, the Clockers finished the game with a win and a lot of great memories.
“This is a great way to allow students with intellectual or physical disabilities to learn fundamental sports skills as well as social skills,” said Athletic Director Stephen Marks. “This season will provide a unique opportunity for our unified athletes and partners and inspire the entire school community.”
In Unified Sports terminology, “Unified athletes” or “Special Olympic athletes” are participants with intellectual disabilities, while “Unified Partners” are individuals without intellectual disabilities who compete alongside them.
The Unified Sports program is a collaborative initiative between the Athletics and Student Services departments at Ashland Public Schools. Participants of all abilities are welcome.
“My goal was to help create regular opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in traditional student activities,” said Director of Student Services Brittany Smeltekop, who helped spearhead the program. “This is a great way to learn from one another and make friendships with peers they may not regularly interact with.”
Unified Sports is a program developed by Special Olympics to promote inclusion through sport. The program creates a welcoming environment for competition and training for athletes of all abilities. More information on Unified Sports can be found by visiting specialolympics.org.