By BRIDGET POULIOT
Imagine looking around your school’s gym during a basketball game as music pulses through the gym. Imagine feeling the overwhelming excitement and energy of your fellow …
By BRIDGET POULIOT
Imagine looking around your school’s gym during a basketball game as music pulses through the gym. Imagine feeling the overwhelming excitement and energy of your fellow classmates every time someone gets the ball into a basket. Imagine hearing the excitement buzzing through the gym and in the hallways for days after as students and staff talk about the game.
Well, that’s what it felt like during and for days after the in-school unified basketball game at Vets.
“A lot of students had fun during the in-school game,” seventh grader Brett Taylor said in an interview.
“The game we played against Cole [Middle School] here at Vets was one of the most exciting games we played,” Coach Lindsey Guglietta explained. “We played during the school day with fans in the stands and the atmosphere was ecstatic!”
One of the many sports students can play at Warwick Vets Memorial Middle School is basketball. But not just boys or girls basketball; Vets has a Unified Basketball team too. Coach Guglietta explained that, “Unified brings students with disabilities and without disabilities together to play on a sports team.” She also mentioned that it helps students with disabilities feel like they’re part of a school community.
“Unified is like a chance for everyone who wants to play,” Connor Fitzgerald, a sixth grader and team manager, explained. The Vets Unified Basketball team for the 2022 season is made up of 23 players, three team managers, and five coaches. During the team’s season, they had two wins, three losses, and one tie. Among the five coaches is Vets CADD teacher, Brigitte DeSomma. Coach DeSomma played basketball in a CYO league and then for Toll Gate when she was a student. She started coaching due to her love of the game and wanted to share it with the Vets community.
“My favorite part about coaching Unified Basketball is seeing the excitement it brings to the athletes and partners,” she answered in an interview. “I love seeing partners helping the athletes on and off the court, the encouragement they give each other, and high-fiving after a good basket.”
Students joined unified basketball for many different reasons; some because they like helping the special needs kids, some because they wanted a chance to play with kids they usually wouldn’t interact with, and even some who saw their siblings play on a unified team and knew they wanted to join as well.
Out of all of the students who were interviewed, there were a variety of answers when it came to their favorite thing about unified basketball: Kason Merrill said the bus ride with friends is the best part; Tyler Collins said he liked that he got to make new friends; Brooke Richer liked helping kids she didn’t normally work with, and Peyton Martin agreed, also saying she liked to travel to different schools. “I think the most important thing we teach the kids is to support each other, both on and off the court,”
Coach Guglietta explained. She didn’t play basketball when she was a student, but she loved getting involved in providing fun opportunities for middle school students, so when this opportunity came up in 2018, she took it. She said that she loved it so much that she decided to coach unified cross country in the fall too. “The chance these athletes get to form relationships is something very special.” There are a variety of levels of experience on the team. The coaches’ experience level ranges from novice to seasoned coach/player.
When it comes to the players, some students had been playing Unified Basketball for a few years and others had played basketball in other settings, but for many students, it was their first time playing the sport.
The first season without COVID restrictions allowed for a sense of normalcy that Coach Guglietta said they all missed. “Win or loss, it doesn’t matter; every season is a success,” she said when asked how she felt the season went. “Each year, we have a very large number of students join the team. We are very proud of the students who participated this year. They showed compassion, kindness, and stellar sportsmanship.”
“I think the season was good,” Brayden Murray, a sixth grader on the team, answered. “Everybody got a chance to get the ball and they were excited when they got it in,” he explained.
Another student, sixth grader Peyton Miller, said this about the season, “I think the season went really well. Even though we didn’t win many games, we still had fun.”
Coach Guglietta explained that their end of the season awards ceremony was, quote, “wonderful”. Both the Mayor and the superintendent attended the ceremony, and the Mayor even gifted the team with a citation.
“Overall,” Coach DeSomma started, “I think the season was a success. We are very proud of our team sportsmanship on and off the court,” she expressed. “The season is too short; I truly miss it when it ends. These students bring a special feeling to the court every time we have practice or a game.”
Coach Guglietta also added that they’ll miss their two eighth graders on the team, Gabriel Brousseau and David Montero-Exposito, when they go to high school next year. She said she hopes they will continue to play when they get to high school.
Shoutout to everyone on the team and all of the individuals who were interviewed: Players: Jyshawn Bernard (6), Johnny Brown (6), Tyler Collins (6), Brenna Hall (6), Peyton Martin (6), Peyton Miller (6), Brayden Murray (6), Ryan Quaine (6), Diego Quinones Capo (6), Brooke Richer (6), Simone Schuetz (6), Isaac Scott (6), Madeleine Scott (6), Kasen Walsh (6), Christian Brown (7), Ibrahima Diallo (7), Aiden Figueiredo (7), Amber Mello (7), Kason Merrill (7), Zachary Sylvia (7), Julian Turner (7), Gabriel Brousseau (8), and David Montero-Exposit (8). Managers: Connor Fitzgerald (6), Brett Taylor (7), and Tim Wishart (9th). Coaches: Brigette DeSomma, Christina Gifford, Lindsey Guglietta, Erin Taylor, and Laura Wishart.
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