CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – Cheektowaga Central athletics have joined other Section VI schools in forming a Unified Basketball Team this year.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association and the Special Olympics formed the Unified Basketball program last year.
The program allows students with intellectual disabilities the ability to compete on the court alongside general education students. Coach Brian Pane says at least three athletes and two general education partners will be on the court at any given time.
“We tried to pick some kids from National Honor Society, we tried to pick some of our football players, we picked some track athletes, we picked some students that were in lunch without athletes that know them,” said Pane.
The Unified Basketball Season is truncated to the month of May. Central’s season consists of a scrimmage, seven games and an end of year tournament.
Many of the athletes in the program also compete in Special Olympics events throughout the year. Pane says it’s like a reunion when all the athletics see each other at the different schools.
The program has been a positive experience for all the students involved.
“They’re giving high fives to the kids in the hallway, they’re asking at breakfast about how’d we do last night, what was the score, how many points did you have. They’re having more meaningful conversations with the kids and that’s what it’s bringing out,” added Pane.
The Unified Basketball Team plays at home:
- May 11th @ 5pm vs. Pioneer
- May 15th @ 5pm vs. Lockport
- May 19th @ 5pm vs. Frontier
- May 24th @ 5pm vs. Eden