Maine-Endwell Unified: Bigger than BasketballPosted: Updated:
Most students with disabilities do not get the opportunity to play an organized sport with their peers. At Maine-Endwell, the unified basketball team provides students with and without disabilities a chance to play in a competitive environment and represent their school.
New this year, Maine-Endwell's team joins Section IV teams like Johnson City, Union-Endicott, Corning, Owego, and more. Unified sports are implemented through a partnership with Special Olympics, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, and the Southern Tier Athletic Conference.
"The athletic department provided the team with sneakers, shirts that we wear to school on game day to try and make it as good and true of an experience an athlete would have at this school," said head coach Bill Ocker.
"We received recommendations from the special education department and I had some students I asked to be partners and athletes."
The goal is to provide the whole team with not only basketball knowledge, but create a more inclusive athletic environment.
"It brightens my day seeing these kids coming to these games and being a part of this team," said senior Patrick Watson. "It’s incredible."
The cheer squad welcomed Kayla onto their team to cheer at all of the unified games, furthering inclusion in the athletic department.
The team's season is wrapping up but will not be forgotten anytime soon.
"I love them, I love each and every one of them no matter what we’re doing," said Watson.