At Grandview High School Colorado, basketball has always been popular, but over the past two years the program has exploded. However, this basketball team is a little bit different than a typical high school basketball team, it is much more powerful…this team is Unified.
The Unified Basketball team at Grandview High School has players with and without intellectual disabilities that play side by side. The teammates learn from one another, practice and together perform just like any other sports team. During the first year the program had quite a few participants, but in just one short year the team has doubled in size.
At the end of the season, partners on the team were asked to reflect on their experience with the team and write an essay. What came from these essays was much more love than anyone had ever felt prior to the team.
“Two years ago, I would walk by Adam in the hallways and smile. But he was just another face. Now when I walk by in the hallways he always gives me a hug no matter what. He isn’t just a face anymore. He is a teammate- a teammate with incredible talent and personality” says Aly Padgett.
The team became an escape from the hectic schedules or stresses faced by the students. Practice and games were a place that everyone could let go, be themselves, and have fun. Bobby Klein said “Just coming to practice made my day better, and because I am a junior, I am thankful to have the possibility to play on the Unified Basketball team next year Playing on the team this year was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had.”
As the season progressed and relationships formed, it seemed that it was not just about basketball anymore, but life. The students broke out of their shells and learned about basketball and life. Many students shared how this experience taught them life lessons and skills they might not have ever learned if not for their teammates and the incredible opportunity to become friends with them. Jordan Schlehuber was one of the students who recognized this: “So I guess the most important thing I learned really isn’t that much about sports; it’s more about life and the kind of person I really want to be.”
“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how fun and all the great moments you create when you’re out there with each other.” –Jackson Peitzmeier
“To say the least my experience with Unified Basketball has been a life changing one.”
The program started out with high hopes and a few participants and has now touched the lives of so many; athletes, partners, parents, coaches, and staff. It seems safe to say that this program is changing many people’s perspectives and lives, and will continue to do more as the program grows in the years to come.