OSWEGO – The crowd roared for each made basket, cheerleaders performed during timeouts and coaches and teammates shouted encouragements to athletes on the court – but this is no ordinary game.
In the first contest of the inaugural Unified Basketball season, something much more important than determining the winning and losing teams was happening.
“As soon as I heard about this program, I said, ‘Oswego has to have this,’” said Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey, part of the contingent of Buccaneer faithful who packed the Leighton gymnasium on April 30 for the tilt between Oswego and Fulton.
With an assist from the Special Olympics and New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the Unified Basketball team is embarking on the season with high hopes and higher spirits.
“It’s inclusive, not exclusive, a good experience for athletes of every skill level and speaks to our mission and vision of being student-centered and creating fully prepared and life-ready graduates,” Dr. Goewey said.
Unified players will receive a varsity letter for their participation in the season and parents said the value of the program goes far beyond what happens between the whistles.
“The Unified program is fantastic and the sportsmanship between the two teams has been phenomenal,” said Jennifer Wetzel, whose son Alexander, 16, plays on the team. “As a parent of a special-needs child, it is so heartwarming to be able to see him compete in a welcoming, accepting atmosphere.”
District officials said they are working on plans to add a Unified Bowling team next year.