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Unified basketball league makes big impact

Against+Alvarez+Everett+High+School%2C+Raymon+Meza+starts+the+fast+break.+%E2%80%9CThe+fun+part+was+that+every+time+I+made+a+shot+people+got+excited+and+would+cheer+me+on.%E2%80%9D+
Against Alvarez Everett High School, Raymon Meza starts the fast break. “The fun part was that every time I made a shot people got excited and would cheer me on.”

Against Alvarez Everett High School, Raymon Meza starts the fast break. “The fun part was that every time I made a shot people got excited and would cheer me on.”

Against Alvarez Everett High School, Raymon Meza starts the fast break. “The fun part was that every time I made a shot people got excited and would cheer me on.”

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Many students with intellectual disabilities tend to feel left out from school activities since they don’t always have classes with mainstream students, but thanks to the Special Olympics Unified Sports they got to interact with not only Alisal students, but they also got to compete with other schools.

The Special Olympics Unified Sports is a program that gives children and adults with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to fit in with the others. In this program, athletes are able to help out, but it mostly benefits those who have disabilities. They get the chance to play basketball, track, or any other sport. Varsity player Lydia Garcia said, “It was funny to see how the interacted with each other and how playing with them was going to help them boost their confidence.”  

All of athletic directors from the Salinas Union High School District – Alisal, Everett Alvarez, North Salinas and Salinas – got together to support the program and give a chance to those special students. Being a basketball coach (as well as Athletic Director) Jose Gil was all for it. “I said, ‘Let’s do it’ and then we started organizing not knowing what to expect, since it was the first time we did it.”

The program consists of many sports that the disabled students can join, but this year the schools focused on basketball, but they plan to change that for next year. “We can do different sports, we can do whatever we want. We are thinking of doing other sports next year as well, not just basketball, we probably can do soccer, track, etc,” said Gil. The team is a minimum of 8 and maximum of 15 players and a minimum of 3 of the volunteer students (all must be similar ages). On the court, only two of the five players can be volunteer students. The volunteer students are able to dribble, pass, shoot, and rebound. They must also try to let the intellectually disabled students participate the most. Overall, the basic rules of basketball are also applied to this program (substitutions, travelling, three second rule, double dribble). Gil felt that he wanted to give back, “I knew it was the right thing to do, it feels right to give back and to do something good for the kids, make them feel special like if they are part of the school.”  

During the month it took to complete the season, they went 4-1-1.  According to Gil, the team did great. Garcia said, “I wish the season the season was longer. I actually got sad when it ended, but it was a good amount of time that we had games. I just think next time we can have more practices and more time to interact with the kids.” Freshman Miguel Gamino agreed with Garcia, he also would like the season to be longer and more sports to be available such as, “soccer, volleyball, baseball, and dodgeball.”    

Gil says the feedback they received from the students who participated, the athletes from our school, teachers, parents, and communities members who came to see the game was overwhelmingly positive. “It was amazing, it was such a great thing for our community, our kids, and schools, nothing but positive,” said Gil.

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The student news site of Alisal High School
Unified basketball league makes big impact