Thompson School District Unified Basketball Teams Slam Dunk – Loveland Reporter-Herald

The Thompson Valley High School Unified Basketball Team played the Burgdorf High School Unified Team on Tuesday night in Thompson Valley.

The Unified Team brings special needs athletes together with their peers to play games against similar teams at other high schools in the Thompson School District as well as other area high schools.

Berthoud won the game, 54-53, with most of those points scored by the special needs athletes, aided by the team’s student partners, passing the ball to their teammates and placing picks to open up space for them. place to shoot.

Brad Nelson, district adaptive physical education teacher and Thompson Valley team coach, said Thompson first formed a unified team eight years ago at Loveland High School and the program grew. developed to encompass teams at all four Thompson high schools.

Tuesday’s unified game drew a sizeable crowd, both students and adults.

Nelson said it’s sometimes difficult to find “partners” or players who don’t have special needs to appear in the team. Many of those who would otherwise be interested in playing are already on other teams that would present time conflicts or have after-school jobs, Nelson said. Those who participate, however, always have a good time, he said.

“It’s so rewarding for them,” Nelson said. “It’s a win-win all down the line.”

Several of the Thompson Valley athletes with special needs said Nelson was instrumental in getting them onboard, something they might not have chosen to do otherwise.

“Who told you to play basketball?” Nelson asked sophomore Alex Vences after Tuesday night’s game.

“You did Coach Brad,” he said.

“I started because of the coach,” said freshman Karson Hubbard. “I was more on the no side at first, but the second time around he convinced me. He pretty much made me,” Hubbard said, adding that he was glad to have joined.

Nelson said that as an adapted physical education teacher for the district, he meets many of his students in kindergarten and accompanies them throughout their time at Thompson schools.

Tadhg McDermid, a junior on the team, said playing in unified games had a positive impact on his life.

“I needed something to do because my mental health was declining,” McDermid said. “It gave me something to do, took me away from school and allowed me to reunite with friends I had forgotten years ago.”

After the game, the crowd descended from the stands and dug a tunnel for the players to run through, getting and giving high fives along the way. Nelson said that as a means of inclusion and building self-esteem, the unified team is crucial.

“Playing in front of a crowd, with cheerleaders,” Nelson said. “It’s huge.”