Basketball season is getting closer to crunch time in the State of Maine. While teams are looking for a trip to Bangor another group of basketball players throughout the State are just starting their season.
Unified sports are taking off in High School across the State of Maine. The concept is partners students with developmental disabilities with Unified Student Partners to train, compete and represent their school. The Maine Principals Association started the partners with Special Olympics Maine back in 2015.
Unified basketball is where it all started back in 2015. Ian Frank of Special Olympics Maine works closely with the MPA on the program. Earlier this year Frank talked about the success.
(Ian Frank):" Working with the MPA it is now five years in a partnership with them to get in the high schools and create an inclusive environment. Very much Unified Sports is an inclusive program that a lot of high schools around the state are becoming involved with."
Mark Capano says it has been well received in High Schools around the state.
(Mark Capano):" The first year we had 16 teams and this year we have 60 teams and it is growing in every capacity. They are going for the gold ball it is a sanctioned Maine Principals Association event. It is just like your regular basketball competition."
(Brian Hamel):" State Tournaments we are hoping to bring this unified concept to Aroostook County to give the High Schools an opportunity to work with the Special Olympians."
The Snowdogs and Caribou Lady Vikings used the unified concept during games at the Special Olympics Skills Competition.
Hamel:"The game today we are using Unified format. That is three Snowdogs on a team and two Caribou girls on the same team. We will play with each other. They will get to interact each other. Use their own skills. It is a new concept in Maine that we are using throughout the State with Unified basketball. We inter mingle the High School Athletes with the Special Olympic Athletes together on the same team."
Hamel says the Area Management Team would love to see Unified basketball in schools here in the County. The stumbling block is that more than one school or portion of the County would have to field teams to keep the amount of travel to a minimum
Hamel:" We need more than one team for it to be competitive we need to have other high schools who want to participate in this program. We are talking to Athletic Directors and Administrators with the school districts to see if we can get this program started in Aroostook County."