Unified Soccer plays with a heart of gold

The Unified Soccer team gathers together after their game against ConVal. The team’s last game will be today at home against Alvirne at 3:00.

Hannah Kennedy, Reporter

 

The Unified Soccer team defeated Alvirne High School by a score of 8-6 on their senior night. This was the team’s final regular season game, putting the team with a record of 2-3-1. Goals were scored by Gio Cafaro (two), Christian Paulenka (two), Noah Ellis, Ryan Shields, Kathleen Murphy, and Brianna Ho.

While the team celebrated the victory after, before the game, the seniors were honored as the took the field for their final regular season game.

“The whole night was nice,” senior Maddie Sullivan said. “It made all of the kids happy, which made me happy.”

 

(Updated 10/20/16)

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As athlete Noah Ellis ran off the field September 21 after scoring a hat trick against Hollis-Brookline, his teammates cheered. Ellis had scored three goals for his team.

Ellis, an athlete expected to graduate with the class of 2017, has been on the team for three years. If there is anyone who you can go to for support and encouragement, it’s Ellis. You can rely on Ellis, along with the rest of the team, to bring the team together after a tough game or even a big win..

“I did cross country for four years and we always helped out one another and that’s what I want to bring to Unified Soccer and teach them good sportsmanship,” Ellis said.

The athletes and helpers play as a team as well as win as a team. No one knows that better than Coach Tebbetts. Tebbetts started coaching the team when Unified basketball coach, Coach MacLean, was offered to coach varsity field hockey at Merrimack High School. Tebbetts was asked to coach the team in her place.

“I would want people to know that the athletes and helpers involved in the Unified Soccer program are kids that are compassionate towards others, who I never hear complaining and who are an absolute joy to work with,” Tebbetts said.

As an athlete herself, junior Olivia Graham has volunteered her time to Unified Sports since the spring of her freshman year. She knows the community and happiness this team brings.

“I went to one of their basketball games and I saw how much fun they were having,” Graham said. “It looked like the athletes and the helpers were all so close, and they seemed like one big family.”

The Unified Soccer team allows teens with intellectual disabilities to play on a team alongside their peers. Athletes play among helpers who have volunteered their time to be a part of the team. Anyone who knows the team or has played on the team will say that the experience is incredibly rewarding.

Since the beginning of Unified Sports, the philosophy of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association acknowledged the idea that athletes with intellectual disabilities can and should be treated just like any other athlete. This association provides equal opportunities for all to play sports.

“On the field we are always helping each other out, and we are always cheering each other on from the sidelines, and you will always see a ton of teamwork,” Graham said. “Off the field, we are all good friends. We talk in school, and out of school, and we are all really close to each other.”

 

With these teens, there is no “I” in team. On and off the field, members of the team show their team spirit, whether they are wearing their blue jerseys to school with pride on game day or huddling up before the third quarter.

“Being a member of this team is so important to me, these kids have become some of my closest friends!” Graham said. “I am so grateful that I got to work alongside all of them.”

For Tebbetts there aren’t enough words to express how proud she is to be a part of this team.

“The sportsmanship that they show to their teammates and their opponents is unmatched,” Tebbetts said. “The team enjoys each other’s company and celebrates each other’s successes.”

The Unified Soccer team and anyone involved will understand how much joy the athletes bring to the team.

“It is a pleasure to watch the players grow athletically and socially,” Tebbetts said. “Former players who have graduated or turned 21 return to support their former teammates. Coaching is a very rewarding experience but coaching Unified has changed my life. I can’t watch them enter a school pep rally without tearing up because I am simply so proud to be a part of their journey.”