The Unified Team

Or how we’ve spent most Saturdays in the last year.

Last summer there was a post on a community facebook forum looking for neuro-typical swimmers to swim on a special Olympics team as Unified Relay partners. I had been looking for something Little J could do in the sports and athletics department. Truthfully most things out there would have overwhelmed our schedule and J would have hated being drug along. But I thought that if we went to Special Olympics for Little J then we might convince J to go to. J was pretty resistant until he found out a) There would be medals and b) If he went to State, he would get to miss school AND stay in a hotel. Hotel sold him on it. 

So we started going every Saturday morning to practice. The great thing about the Special Olympics schedule is that there are only short Saturday practices, a local competition and a state competition for each sport. The time commitment fit into our lives nicely. To top it off, Mrs. S’s son T also wanted to do it. T is older than my boys and has other special needs but he and Little J are really good friends. Little J is allowed to participate as a partner which means he does not have any solo races. He is fine with that. J races in two races by himself because he was not a motivated relay participant. 

unified so1

T got gold and J got silver in one of their races

State Unified relay Team with their coaches

State Unified relay Team with their coaches

After the local competition for swimming last year, the bowling season started. They decided to enter a unified 4 person team for the first time. So J, Little J, T and T’s sister Lala competed together. They were terrible but they had a great time. They got better as the season went on, better but not good. However, they did build stronger teamwork skills which was good since our two families spend so much time together. One of the cool things for the kids at the tournaments/meets is that the police department does the presentation of medals. They also do a torch run to raise funds and light a torch at the opening ceremonies.

2013 Unified Bowling team

2013 Unified Bowling team

After bowling we were firmly into the Vail Trailblazers family. We had a fun banquet for all the families and then started Basketball practice. Little J and Thomas decided to be on the team and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I didn’t force J to to play because his bad attitude about teamwork would just bring everyone else down. Besides, he’s probably refuse to put his book down and get off the bench. Our team didn’t do well at the local competition but they won a hard fought gold medal at State in March. Little J loved basketball so much that I offered to find him a team to play on in the “off season” but he turned me down saying the Trailblazers were his only team. 

Unified so BB

After basketball came track but the boys couldn’t participate in the meets due to Little J being in Odyssey of the mind so just T and Lala went. However, J and Little J have decided they will definitely be doing it next spring with their friends.

That brings us full circle back to swimming. We are back in the pool this summer with Little J and Lala on unified relays. J swimming two races, T swimming 2 races and a relay. I started the summer as a parent volunteer while they worked on getting some new coaches on board. Those coaches never showed and I am now on the roster as a coach. (I do have a background in competitive swimming) I’ve been spending 2 hours every Saturday in the water with the team. If you want to cheer them on, their local competition will be at the Edith Ball Aquatics center on September 6th.

It has turned out to be a great year for us. Little J loves being on a no-stress team and J benefits from the exercise even if we have to coerce him. I am so grateful that we have found this group of people. There is support for the special needs and behaviors in our family, there is fun for Little J and his friends, there’s a sense of team pride without all the stressed out time commitments. If you’ve been looking for something low key for your neuro-typical kid or something challenging for your special needs child/adult and want more details, just send me a message. There are unified opportunities for all the sports our team does and a few other sports that other teams train for.

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