By Julia McCloskey, Staff Writer
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, things are finally returning to normal, and New Paltz High School is proud to announce the launch of its first-ever unified basketball program. Unified basketball is a sports program that allows young adults and children with special needs to participate in structured team sports activities.
Michel Vance, a coach at New Paltz HIgh School for PE and unified sports explains, “It’s mixing special olympics and kids with disabilities on a team with kids who don’t have disabilities, and all the benefits that come with putting those two groups together is so worthwhile.”
Eunice Kennedy Shriver launched the Unified Sports Association in June of 1963 when she started a camp for children with intellectual and physical disabilities out of her home in Potomac, Maryland. Shiver began this program to address the lack of chances for disabled children to participate in structured team sports.
“Participate, come out and support. There will be home games. Come watch and support your classmates,” Vance says.
Basketball is among the many options of unified sports that New Paltz High School offers, along with others they hope to add in the very near future. Bowling was offered earlier this year as part of the unified curriculum, and the program is aiming to add on further alternatives in the years to come.
One of the best things about unified sports is that it combines children with disabilities and children without, and allowing them to participate in a structured sport. Showing up is the best way for New Paltz HIgh School students to get involved. You have the option to be an athlete or a helper. Be ready to learn and have fun.
Koby Wulfmeyer sophomore at New Paltz HIgh School says “ I participated in the unified basketball program and enrolled in a program called ties where I became closer with one of the athletes on the team and supported them through their journey. Ever since I started these programs I’ve had more and more joy from the experience.”
This initiative is vital in breaking down stereotypes and demonstrating to future generations that they, too, can have the same possibilities as everyone else. Unified sports allow children and young adults with disabilities to participate in structured sports that were previously unavailable to them. This program will only grow in popularity, and New Paltz High School has partnered with the unified sports organization to ensure that every child has the opportunity to participate.
Greg Warren, Athletic director and Unified Sports advisor at NPHS, explains that the two major sports right now are basketball and bowling, and he envision them growing more in the future.
“Unified Sports are only going to continue to grow; it’s really catching on throughout the state,” Warren says.