Players and Partners: Unified Indeed

Corinna Rec, Staff Writer

The KHS Unified basketball team is composed of 13 players who are diversely abled, and 16 partners who assist the players during a game. Kennebunk is one of many towns with unified teams, but it hasn’t always been this way. There used to only be 5 or 6 teams across Maine, and now there are over 60 teams in towns stretching across the state. The teams practice 8 times a season and have 12 games. There are only two 20 minute halves, fewer stop times than traditional games, and the rules are quite bendable. At the KHS unified senior game, the referee seemed to run as much as the players, but whistle as little as possible. The goal of a unified game is not to win, but to give players the possibility to play this kind of sport.

The KHS unified team did not win one game this season, apart from their senior game, but, really, that was never the point.  Everyone who plays on the unified team does it for the fun, not the glory. Player Jordan Kennedy stated that he thought the season had gone “pretty good”, despite the losses. There is a deeper meaning to these games than just winning. The fan base embraces this ideal too. The support in the stands is a sight to admire as much as the game. Each team cheers for the other, and everyone in the stands will clap and cheer no matter who scores a basket. And the players have, as the unified coach stated, “the biggest cheerleaders,” their partner players. 

The connection between players and partners has the biggest value for the participants. As partner Lily Schwartzman remarked, the team “provides an opportunity to create relationships that [she] wouldn’t have been able to make” otherwise. Partners and players get to make friends they might not have met because they take different classes or spend time in different sections of the school. These links between players and partners build a bridge that would not exist if it were not for the unified team. Partners also help the players in each game, and as the players and partners gain trust with each other, friendship follows, which makes for a better team. In the game, they are one unit, moving fluidly in a wonderful harmony, indeed, unified. Partners will pass the ball to the players and give them a chance to score. Even other players will pass to a player who doesn’t make as many baskets. “It feels better when you pass it to a player who doesn’t get a lot of shots”, said Jordan. Their coach, Mrs. Campanella, thinks that “they are a great team to work with”. She has the joy of coaching such enthusiastic and excited players, who always show great sportsmanship and enjoy the people around them.

This team brings so many different people together, showing them something they all have in common, a love for the sport they are playing. Bonds are made and bridges built, connecting two worlds together. Unified basketball gives everyone a chance to reach out of their comfort zone, and widens their worlds. Attend the next game, and you could be cheering them on in the stands, engulfed in the positivity.