Unified basketball team set to tip off on Thursday

May 10, 2017

The Unified Basketball team is gearing up for their first game of the season! The program, which is run through the Special Olympics, brings together students with special needs and general education students to create a co-ed team, where they will practice and compete together against other area schools.

The goal of the program is to build relationships and connections among the students, and give the students with disabilities a chance to play high school sports. This season, there will be a total of 15 students on the team under the leadership of Coach Jessica Byerwalters, who started the Unified Sports program at Amsterdam three years ago.

The program also includes a Youth Activation Committee (YAC), which consists of student-leaders with and without disabilities, to strategize and plan activities. The YAC is responsible for the promotion and sustainability of the Unified Sports Program.

“This is important for the student body as a whole, not just the students with disabilities,” Byerwalters said. “The program gives the community an opportunity to see that all students have the chance to be a leader and a role model.”

It is the district’s hope that this program will educate, motivate and activate the students to promote respect, inclusion, and acceptance for all.

“Now that Unified Sports is able to offer extra-curricular activities, we can help students form bonds and see a different side of kids that not everyone gets to see,” Byerwalters added. “It’s an amazing program that offers a lot more than just sports.”

The team will play six games this season, with their first game on Thursday, May 11 at Hudson Falls.