Unified basketball promotes inclusion in sports

David+Doan+dribbling+the+ball+up+field+during+the+Campo+Verde+game+on+the+14th+of+April.+Doan++later+that+week+earned+the+%22Initiative%22+character+matters+awards.

Dayton Jones

David Doan dribbling the ball up field during the Campo Verde game on the 14th of April. Doan later that week earned the “Initiative” character matters awards.

Unified basketball kicked off with their first game on Apr. 5 and the athletes are excited to get the season started. Unified sports is a time where students otherwise not able to play in the regular season sports can enjoy the game, and bring a bright spirit to it. Coach Rose Escalante stated, “Because we may look different or learn differently, doesn’t mean they can’t play. You can enrich the lives of our athletes in many life-changing ways.”

Escalante started coaching because her son “had an intellectual disability when he was younger.” She has now been coaching for a little over seven years off and on being head and assistant coach. 

Unified sports is more than just the games they play; it is about learning teamwork, having fun, and inclusivity. Not only is it a good time for the athletes, but their partners as well. Joey Lujan who has been a part of the unified sports since freshman year stated, “I got started with doing unified sports in junior high and it was a lot of fun and I like hanging out with the kids.”

With every sport, the team learns different skills. This season, unified is learning basketball techniques and other related skills. Leah DeTemple who started sophomore year said, “right now we are focusing on teamwork and making sure we pass the ball and everyone gets a chance to dribble up the ball and make some shots.”

With only one basketball court, there is limited availability so unified gets in practice when they can. Escalante said, “Because we share the gym with the other sports teams, we only get to practice once a week. It’s sometimes hard to remember what we learned.” The athletes are always happy and excited when they get to play whenever possible. “I also love when they see me in the halls and remind me that we have practice,” Escalante added.

Giving all players a chance to shoot, score, and dribble during the games is present while watching. If a player misses a basket they are given another chance or two to make it, but partners do not make any shots. They help by giving it to athletes and cheering on each other. In fact, both team’s parents and players cheer when the other makes a basket to keep the encouragement going. 

The games are not just about winning it is about getting to play and improve each and every practice or game. Lujan stated, “we’ve only had one game so far but we played really well. We did lose but we are still learning.” Escalante added, “My favorite part of coaching is watching the athletes improve at each practice and game. They always want to do their best and show great teamwork.” 

The best part of coaching and playing is “the love and support that everyone gives on and off the playing field,” Escalante noted.