NEWS RELEASE: RHS Brings Special Ed and General Ed Together through Unified Basketball
Unified Sports teams are helping to break down barriers through sports, and Roseville High School has gotten on-board, recently introducing their Unified Basketball team. Unified Sports, a part of the Special Olympics program, partners special education students with general education students to promote social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences.
Unified Sports are offered to any student with an Individual Education Program (IEP) and an intellectual disability, plus general education students who wish to serve as partners. The RHS Unified Basketball team consists of a dozen special education students and a few general education students. The games feature three special education athletes and two general education partners on the court together. Roseville High School Athletic Director Keith Marzec said that Unified Sports are a great way for special education students to participate in athletics representing their school. “This is something typically our special education students would never be able to experience. It also educates all our students about students with disabilities and builds relationships with their gen ed peers.” Marzec’s daughter also plays on the team. “I am so thankful she has been able to experience this.”
Marzec said that the response the Unified Basketball team has received from the school community has been amazing. “All three of our boys' basketball teams took a spirit bus to Clawson to support our Unified team. There have been numerous staff members who have traveled to our away games to support. The atmosphere at the games has been one of the best things I have ever been a part of in all my time in athletics.” Marzec added that other Unified sports may be on the horizon at RHS. “With the success of the basketball team, we will be looking into starting other sports, such as flag football and bowling.”
The team is coached by staff members Jennifer Bolle, Vernard Snowden, Josh Kovach, student Anthony Scott, and Cognitively Impaired (CI) teacher Reba Stanley, who suggested the school start a team. “When I thought of starting a team, the goal was that I wanted students to know more of their peers outside of the CI program. Now, the general education students are fist bumping them in the halls, wishing them good luck at their games, posting the scores on social media, and members of the football team have even invited CI kids to sit with them at lunch time.” Stanley said that she is surprised how beneficial the team is for students without intellectual disabilities. “It is opening conversations about different disabilities. Some of the teammates mentioned they did not truthfully know about disabilities when you could not visually see the impairment or notice when talking to them. It was a nice opportunity to point out that even thoough these students have learning disabilities, they have the same humor and drama as any teen and are easy to relate to.” Stanley added that the atmosphere in the gym during these games is too incredible to put into words. “Fans and high school students from both teams were cheering on every athlete on both teams, people were even in tears watching the excitement after a student made a basket.”
The RHS Unified Team has an undefeated record to date, collecting two victories over Grosse Pointe South and one over Clawson. The team finishes the season on February 13 with a home game against Sterling Heights. Marzec said that the MAC conference hopes to expand next year so that Unified can have their own league. “Grosse Pointe North also has a team, but their schedule was full this year. Lamphere has Unified Sports as well but does not have a basketball team as of now.”
Pictures included below.