Masuk High’s Unified Sports program, which includes a winter basketball program, gives special needs students a chance to learn about teamwork, practice skills, and experience sportsmanship as well as some competitiveness in games.
“It’s just a nice team environment too,” says Jack Rose, who has been a partner in the program for three years “If you cheer for them they smile. They love the game, they love to be out there.”
Rose, who assists Masuk’s basketball team throughout the winter, and helps out with the fall soccer and spring volleyball squads, notes that every athlete is different and it takes some time to get to know each of them and how best to assist them.
“My partners are so aware of the needs of the athletes,” said Kerry Neaton, coach of the Masuk Unified Sports teams.
Nicole Schwartz, who coordinates Masuk’s Unified Sports program along with Danielle Hawley, points out that the athletes, as with any group of athletes, have varying levels of ability. Not only do the partners assist the athletes, but some of the players learn to help their teammates and opponents, she said.
“It’s a learning experience for them to not always give it their all,” Schwartz said. “It’s a blast to see the support,” Hawley adds.
The connections partners and athletes make are what Schwartz enjoys seeing most.
“When we’re walking in the halls you get to see both the partners and the players come together and enjoy each other’s company. It’s not just during the game and during practice,” she said.
The Unified Sports team practices once each week and competes in several games and tournaments throughout each season.
“To see the friendships that have blossomed on the bench are just so heart-warming,” Neaton said. “We just need to promote more of this kind of giving. They’re so selfless.”
Masuk Unified Sports athletes and partners include: Jack Crowell, Aidan Huber, John Hurley, Rosie Lyons, Michael Primorac, Alec Beavers, Olivia Palermo, Amanda Short, Jack Rose, Tyler Farina, Lexi Pivarnik, Augusta Parsell, Briggs Parsell, Victor Madera, Amanda DePalma, Ana Delaney and Rory Monaco.