Special education students will compete against other schools Monday, May 16, in a basketball tournament. The jamboree will showcase the surrounding schools special education and regular education athletes. The organizer of the event, Special Education teacher Lisa Long, prepares with coaches Genny Johnson and Susie Bocock.
“The purpose [of Unified Basketball] is to have special education students play with regular education students and to get the experience of a high school athlete,” Long said. “The [regular education] students are on the court with and assist them.”
This is the first unified game to take place since the beginning of COVID-19.
“We didn’t get to play last year because of COVID, so this year we are doing it a little differently. They are calling it a jamboree where we play all in one night,” Long said. “We’ll have four 20 minute games, and we’ll play against schools in [the] Rockingham County.”
The event takes a lot of preparation and organization. The night of the event, Long will be on the bench to help with whatever is needed.
“Typically, the coaches are Genny and Susie. They are assistants in our room and they know the students very well. I am the team mom organizing the bench. It’s a lot of organizing to make sure everyone is there, has uniforms, gets [picked] up, gets out on the court when they are supposed to, and has water. That way the coach can concentrate on the kids playing. It’s a lot to keep up with and you definitely need someone to coach and someone to organize the kids at the same time,” Long said
Unified Basketball has succeeded in integrating the special education students into the rest of the high school.
“[Unified] has [had] an amazing impact because a lot of people didn’t even know we were down here in the corner on the first floor. I think after we had the first year, people recognized us and were coming up to my students saying hello. It was super exciting and they felt special and truly part of the highschool,” Long said.
The tournament has seen an overwhelming amount of support in the past. The players are supported by many fellow students.
“There are more people that come to the unified games than the regular basketball games. It’s amazing to hear people cheering and be so excited. [There is] so much support from everybody it’s amazing,” Long said.
Unified Basketball has become the highlight of the students year.
“It was a life changer for all of us and the highlight of our year every year,” Long said.
Come support your classmates, May 16 at Turner Ashby High School, games begin at 5:00pm