After four years of being part of the Unified Sports League, Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy, held its first-ever game on campus. Students and educators at Locke High school, along with Mayfair, Warren, and LA Polytechnic High Schools, came together in the name of sports, inclusion, and teamwork for a series of soccer games.
"It feels amazing to have a Unified Sports game on our campus. This [event] is special because I don't think we've had anything like this in the past. It just feels great having everybody here," said Locke’s Unified Sports coach, Robert Gumbs.
The cheers and excitement of the sports event, staff, students, and administrators are reflective of the connectivity and teamwork that made this partnership possible. "Everything came together at one time. " said Ross Moore, Adaptive Physical Education Specialist at Locke High School.
Minutes before the game, the Unified teams practiced on a field decorated with colorful Unified Sports posters along the bleachers. Each poster encouraged bystanders and players through phrases like: "Go Saints,” “Inclusion,” “Belonging," and “the power of inclusion.”
The games started with an opening ceremony where the cheer team presented each school with a banner of their school's name. Each school's team broke through their banners and emerged into the field, where cheers from the audience filled the area, and Locke's cheer team rolled their pom-poms. The crowd erupted in excitement with words like "We got this," and "We can do it," encouraging everyone to keep going and reinforcing that they're all in this together.
"When we first started our Unified Sports team, everybody was shy, but now we're all together. We're friends. And we know how to communicate with each other better," says Xochitl Naca, a 9th grade Locke student who recently transitioned from Unified Cheer to Unified Soccer.
At the end of the three games, each team lined up to congratulate and receive medals as reminders that score did not matter. Instead, they were all there to "celebrate inclusion, acceptance and most of all love, here at Locke," Assistant Principal Amber Ortel said.
The soccer activities were made possible by Unified Sports, an inclusive sports program where student-athletes with and without disabilities play and compete, sponsored by the Special Olympics.