Guest Column: Unified Sports IS a sports team

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For those who may not know, Unified Sports is a team that allows for young people with disabilities to partake in sports as athletes along with other student partners to guide them. The reason I say “for those who may not know” is because it is more than likely a majority of students are unaware of our existence. This isn’t by fault of the students themselves, but MHS itself. Middletown High School, or rather, the Athletics Department has made one thing very clear: We are not as important as other sports.

This is ironic because we are in the same category as football, soccer, or any other sport at MHS. So you would think this means we get the same practice time, attention, and concern just like the rest of the teams, right? Wrong.

Numerous times we have been kicked out of our practice space in order for the other teams of “more importance” to have somewhere to be. We’ve practiced in the music hallway, in front of the auditorium, and even on the bus loop. Can you imagine the soccer team having their practice in a hallway? That would be seen as unacceptable, but for Unified it’s all we can get. Even after my coach, Mrs. Broomfield, took it upon herself to ask Athletics if we could be guaranteed a spot, we still were forgotten. They had ensured us a spot in the big gym. But, of course, the gym was completely full, and the coaches made it clear that they didn’t care about the fact that we couldn’t practice. I’m positive if the roles were reversed, they would have shown more concern.

Students are also not aware when we have home games and tournaments. We have tried making posters, contacting Bluetube, and just spreading the world to get some support for our tournaments. Nevertheless, our games have never been prioritized to the same caliber as the rest of the MHS sports teams. There is hardly any acknowledgment, let alone school spirit, received for our games. In contrast, other schools for tournaments, feel fun and high-spirited. Their band is playing, there are students watching and cheering, and a lot of attention is placed onto the team to make them feel supported. Schools like Coginchaug and New Britain have dedicated their effort to create an inclusive attitude. They showed us what it’s like to have your school actually support your team and everything you do for it.

Unified Sports most likely has the least amount of players of any team at our school. We are completely aware that students can only play one sport a season, so we know it can be hard to participate in it. I’ve been a member of Unified Sports for almost every season that I have been at this school, and there have been times when only me and one other person are partners for the team. Lacking a sufficient number of partners to help out the athletes for practices and games makes them challenging for everyone. If we had more people join the team, it would help with all of the obstacles I have stated above.

This issue is not something that my team and I have taken lightly. We understand that there is not a lot of space for practicing and that it is difficult to fit everyone in to get the fair amount of practice. We understand that it may be hard to get students involved with the wide arrangement of sports and activities.

The bottom line is that we are an ACTUAL sports team. We deserve the same amount of respect and validation as any other sports team. We need more inclusivity. We need better treatment. Unified Sports is by far one of the best things I have ever been a part of, and I wish the rest of the students at MHS could see our team spirit.

With the Unified Basketball season approaching, there is little patience left on this subject. We hope for the best this season and will not give up no matter what mistreatment or discrimination we face. Unified Sports is all about having fun, trying your best, and making everyone feel included, which is the same mindset that we will carry no matter what the circumstances may be.

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