The following editorial ran in the Record-Journal on Oct. 1:
We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how important athletics is at the high school level. The cancellation of the football season this fall has brought that perspective to the fore. But that importance extends beyond those who may see sports as a way toward future scholarships and even professional play. Sports is, or ought to be, an important experience for everyone.
That extends to students with disabilities, who may also harbor the desire to play, to experience the camaraderie of team athletics and to thrive on competition.
The Unified Sports program at Cheshire High School, as the name implies, takes an inclusive approach by involving both those with and those without disabilities. The Cheshire program, as it was recently reported in these pages, has been recognized for this important approach, being named a Special Olympics Unified Champion School by the Special Olympics.
The recognition honors an approach that has “an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff.”
It would be hard to overstate how important an approach like this is. Many students would like to play but feel they can’t, and feel left out, their desires pushed to the side or ignored. But you don’t have to be great at it to play a sport, or to enjoy playing one, and it’s important that an approach at the scholastic level takes this into account.
“When you put that combination of students with disabilities paired with students who don’t have a disability, collaboration just naturally happens, and it’s amazing to see,” said Matt Guida, CHS Unified Sports coordinator.
In order to receive the designation, which has also gone to Southington High School and Farmington High School, 10 achievement standards need to be met. “Some of the questions include how often we offer sports, if it is a part of youth leadership, and how often is the whole school involved,” said Guida.
This is a valuable recognition for a most valuable effort, one that helps define what ought to be the true meaning of scholar athlete.