If you are looking to be inspired, you don’t have to look far. Poudre School District in connection with Special Olympics’ Project Unified has formed it’s very own unified sports basketball league with not only one but four unified high school basketball teams. Unified Sports are teams consisting of students with and without intellectual disabilities. The heart behind this project is that when you practice together, play together and learn together, understanding grows and friendships are formed.
To get to this point was a labor of love and quite a few people. One of the most instrumental people is Erin Coy, Integrated Services Coach for Poudre School District. After 10 years as a special education educator she was frustrated with the lack of opportunity at a high school level for her students with special needs.
In 2011 she and 4 other educators from Poudre School District and Thompson School District came together to create a Special Olympics Track and Field Event for high school students in the two districts. “Our mission was to provide the opportunity for students with disabilities to compete in athletic activities as a representative of their high school.” says Coy.
The event was a success and a relationship between PSD and Special Olympics was formed. In 2012, Project Unified was gaining traction in the state of Colorado. An area representative contacted Coy about the possibility of bringing Unified Sports to Fort Collins. This was what Coy had been looking for. That year she put together a unified basketball team with students from Fossil Ridge High School to play exhibition games at the Budweiser Event Center during the Harlem Globetrotters Show. The same team had the opportunity to play later that year in an exhibition game at the Pepsi Center for a Denver Nuggets game.
It was time to take it to the next level. In the fall of 2013, a district committee including Rick Yonker (2012 interim district athletic director), Sarah Belleau, and the athletic directors from each school was formed. The committee with help from Chaka Sutton and Allo Perry from Project Unify Colorado, founded Unified Sports in PSD with 2014 Winter Basketball.
Just like most teams, players try out and partner players have an additional application component. Teams generally practice about 2 times per week. Many of the schools spend practice time with freshman JV, and varsity basketball. Unified Sports are funded by PSD and Unified Sports Grants and are free to the public. This is something you should not miss!
Fort Collins High School: Stacy Sidebottom, Kelly Kappel & Troy Tollar
Fossil Ridge High School: Kim Eberhart, Jamie Westyn, & Brittany Hutson
Rocky Mountain High School: Amy McLean & Chris O’Grady
Poudre High School: Wendi Miller & Lisa Owsley
Poudre School District Integrated Services Director: Sarah Belleau 2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521