Unified sports bring students together

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Photo by RT staff

Members of the unified bocce team practice for the season during drop-ins in the cafeteria on Nov. 18.

By Evan Moreland , Round Table sports editor

Unified sports teams compete in every high school sports season; from fall tennis and winter bocce, to track and field in the spring, there is a unified sport for everyone.

The unified sports teams are led by Middletown High School science teacher Scott Bean. Bean has been the head of these programs for seven years.

The unified sports program has a very different setup from other sports activities. Teams are composed of both students in the learning for life program and volunteers from the student body at MHS.

“Our programs spend more time having fun,” said Bean. “Anyone who has an interest is encouraged to participate in the program.”

As with other extracurricular activities, there is a massive time commitment that comes with participation. However, with unified sports, “it only takes between four to five hours a week,” said Bean.

James Schartner, MHS wrestling coach and unified physical education teacher, added that these groups of students are a really great group to work with.

With the way unified sports are growing, the need for participants is larger than ever. When participating in the unified program the only requirement is that “you have to have compassion.” Schartner said.

The MHS unified teams have had a large amount of success, giving participants an experience like no other. Recently, they’ve been playing in tournaments at both the county and state level.

“These sports allow two groups of students to interact that normally wouldn’t interact. Both groups of students benefit greatly from the interactions,” said Schartner.

“The only reason that this class works is because of the general education students. That is the backbone of the class. They do 90 percent of the work, they do 90 percent of the interaction. They make it work,” said Schartner.

Unified sports have become a staple of MHS’s athletic programs. For the time being, it is obvious that this will not change.

“The importance of this unified program is huge. We have had general education students eat lunch with Learning for Life students. The students are being accepted for who they are. That is one of the most positive things that have come out of this. It has been awesome to see everyone jump on board and really become one team,” Schartner said.

The unified sports program is not only essential to MHS, but to Middletown as a community. It creates opportunities and experiences that some students would have otherwise not had the chance to experience. Also, the program creates memories that will last a lifetime for students who participate in the program.