After a year of games cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy’s inclusionary basketball team returned to the Unified Sports arena at the end of the 2021 fall semester.
Inclusionary activities are made possible through the Special Olympics’ Unified Sports, a program that connects students with and without disabilities to compete as teammates. For the last three years, Locke has fostered key relationships between Downey and Warren high schools to host rotating Unified Sports events.
Locke’s Unified Sports students spent the 2021 fall semester training for these basketball matches. “I’m looking forward to going on the court more,” said Pattrell Jefferson, a 12th grade student at Locke. Jefferson said he spent the semester building up his speed before the game by training on treadmills, because “I really like playing basketball.”
Hugo Beltran, an 11th grade Locke student, sat on the sidelines to build team morale through frequent cheers. “I don't really play on the team, but what I do have is the ‘Unified’ spirit.”
The last Unified Sports game between the three participating schools took place at Mayfair High School in January of 2020. Locke played its first round of celebratory basketball games against Mayfair and Warren high schools on December 3, 2021.
Rebuilding a Team
Even Though the Unified Sporting events were cancelled, the Locke team continued to recruit members from the school’s divisional basketball team and general courses during remote learning. By August of 2021, when schools reopened fully for in-person learning, the Unified Sports team spent much of its participant-based advisory training for upcoming sporting events.
“We have a daily morale boost everyday during our advisory,” said Ross More, the Adaptive Physical Education Specialist at Green Dot Public Schools California. “We do a quick announcement and then we break up into our groups to start practicing. This Unified Sports event is their chance to show us everything they have.”
Locke’s Unified Sports basketball team is coached by Robert Gumbs, Locke’s physical education teacher and varsity basketball coach. Gumbs spent much of the fall semester retraining fundamental basketball skills.
“It’s rough not being out on the court for a year, because playing sports is all about muscle memory. This year, we're just more focused on teaching our students basic skills, and showing them how to have fun. We practice shooting, but it’s more than getting shot; We just hope they fall in and have a good time when they do,” Gumbs said.
“The biggest skill outside of passing and sharing the ball is just being great teammates and understanding that, it's not just about you, it's about everybody else,” Gumbs said. “That's what we learn from Unified Sports: We learn the importance of sharing and understand that everybody has to be involved in order for us to be successful.”
Gumbs, Moore, and Locke’s inclusionary sports team are anticipating a year of resumed Unified Sports events. “We're looking forward to hosting an event like this at Locke, but we’re aiming to make it happen this coming Spring,” Moore said.
At Green Dot, our students have the opportunity to tackle their wildest dreams. Our network of schools serves more than 1,800 students with disabilities, each of whom receives services and support through an individualized education program administered through a multi-tiered system. Unified Sports demonstrate our commitment to education, and help build the tools necessary for students to be successful in college, leadership, and life.