You may have heard of a new club at Ridgewood High School called “Unified Sports Club.” This club was created to bring together the high school’s able-bodied athletes and disabled athletes. There are many schools across the nation that have unified sports clubs or teams. These clubs and teams are created to help include all types of students in schools who might not receive the opportunity otherwise. Mr. Rinaldi explained the club: “Unified Sports is one of the programming initiatives run by Special Olympics. Its goal is to create movement opportunities for people with and without disabilities to play together. Unified programs are run all over the world in different schools and community programs. The RHS Unified Sports Club, sets out to make these opportunities possible for RHS students of all ability levels.”
At RHS, this club frequently meets to play games and sports during unit lunch and sometimes after school. Instead of playing traditional activities, they are adjusted to make sure everyone can participate. For example, instead of playing a classic game of volleyball, the athletes will play a unique version with their own set of rules which allows everyone to be able to play the game. Instead of using their hands, the athletes can use tennis rackets, ping pong paddles, hockey sticks and other tools. Instead of a hard volleyball, a beach ball is used. Instead of requiring the ball to only go over the net, the athletes can also hit it under. Especially since volleyball is not a game that can be easily learned by everyone, these adaptations allow for a more interactive game for all of the athletes. Student athlete AnnaMarie Tretola stated, “I run track and cross country at RHS and helping students who don’t get the opportunity to play sports outside of school is really fun for me. I love playing games during the club meetings, specifically the volleyball game.”
In essence, some children with disabilities have not been given the chance to participate in sports, so this club allows them to participate here at RHS. Mr. Rinaldi says, “The club allows students of all different ability levels and backgrounds to play and socialize together. The RHSUSC can help create inclusive PE classes, after school sports clinics, or even competitive Unified teams. We want it to be known that you do not have to consider yourself to be a great athlete to participate. All students are welcome!” If any student is interested in joining the club, they can email Mr. Rinaldi or Mr. Kilcullen for more information.
The club plans for many events throughout this school year. Specifically, they plan on running multiple “sports clinics” after school. Mr Rinaldi described these sports clinics as “a great way for students to volunteer and play with us after school, but a great way for student athletes to coach skills of the sports they play competitively.” This gives many students at RHS the opportunity to work with each other. As for the future, “the RHSUSC is hopeful to have a competitive basketball team in the coming years. With a competitive team, there is the potential to play other Unified basketball teams across the state. We also believe in connecting to the community to create Unified programs outside of school. Ideally, we would love for there to be a link between school and community Unified Programs!” This is exciting for the club since they could connect with other schools who have a similar program. Overall, the RHS unified sports club brings many opportunities for everyone at RHS.
Graphic: Unified Sports Club Organization