Unified Sports Program’s Game is Strong This Year

Senior%2C+Andy+Bishop%2C+with+a+flower+that+was+presented+to+him+at+senior+night.++

Katie Billington

Senior, Andy Bishop, with a flower that was presented to him at senior night.

Katie Billington, Reporter

The Unified Sports Program provides a family atmosphere for all the athletes who are involved with the program, with and without disabilities; It allows all types of students to play in competitive sports together to represent Rocky in both a positive and encouraging way.

“This program gives an opportunity to the students with disabilities to get to play and compete for sports programs for the school,” Unified flag football coach, Brad Hargreaves said. “It also gives their peers a chance to work in a helper role, and a coaching-like role to help them participate in these sports.”

This program gives an opportunity to the students with disabilities to get to play and compete for sports programs for the school. It also gives their peers a chance to work in a helper role, and a coaching-like role to help them participate in these sports.”

— Brad Hargreaves

This program enables students who are a part of the program to have their own kind of success in sports that they might not have in regular sports. All participants in this program are offered the opportunity to compete in an inclusive extracurricular activity that promotes success and teamwork.

“I think that the benefit of the Unified Program is the same for every kid that’s involved: it gives them a chance to show off things that they don’t usually get to show. We don’t often get to show the amazing things that people with disabilities can do,” Unified coach and Rocky staff member, Chris O’Grady said. “I think that for our students without disabilities who get to play with them, the benefit is that they get to have a turn in the spotlight doing what they do really well, which is interacting with people.”

The overall goal, that coaches and everyone involved in the Unified Sports Program aims to reach, is to create a place where anyone participating feels welcome and significant.They want to make the Unified Program a place where kids can go to build relationships that will last for a lifetime.

“The hardest thing for people with special needs in our community encounter is that there isn’t a next step after high school, whereas, their classmates move on to to college or other career opportunities. It feels like everyone in their life just leaves, so our goal is to build as many relationships for them as possible,” O’Grady said. “We just want to build lifelong and meaningful friendships because so many of them have people in their lives that just are there to work with them. We want people who want to be their friend in ways that we, as adults, can’t necessarily be.”

The Unified Sports Program mainly consists of basketball and flag football. This is the second year that flag football has been a part of the Unified Program and basketball’s fourth year in the district. The flag football team has ended their season with the state tournament on October 22nd at JFK High School in Denver. They entered three different teams into the State Tournament, with each team placing and earning recognition.

“What was most impressive about our season is how we grew together as a team and forged meaningful relationships between our players in a strong community,” O’Grady said. “That’s what matters and will leave a lasting imprint of this team.”

A Unified basketball interest meeting will be held in mid-December with information about the upcoming season. Practices will officially start after break.