ALBANY, N.Y. – For many high schoolers it’s their goal to make the varsity basketball team and represent their school, but a lot of kids just don’t have that ability.
The Capital Region has started a pilot program known as the Unified Basketball League. It’s an opportunity for students with and without special needs to join together on the court.
“I’m legally blind, and I like to play basketball, so now I get to play with a lot of great people,” Jake Sicard, a sophomore at Guilderland High School, said.
“One of the biggest things with this program is they get to play for their school, and these kids don’t have a lot of opportunities to participate all the time in clubs and sports for their school, so this is a first,” Guilderland coach Colette Gallagher said.
Twelve area teams play a six-game schedule. Although every player isn’t physically able to play during the games, they get to show off what they can do with the basketball during a skills competition after every game.
The season ends with a chance to be named the Unified League Champion during a regional tournament at the end of May.
“I’ve never played for a championship, but I am excited for one,” Guilderland sophomore Jason Dythe said.
But championship or not, the unified league is about one thing – teamwork.
“We have all these new friendships that have started on the team as a result of this program,” Gallagher said. “Bringing kids with disabilities and without together.”