Guest Blog: “I would not be the person I am today without Unified Basketball.”
Tyler Blitz is a student-athlete at Horseheads High School. For his college essay, he wrote about his experience playing Unified Sports. Read it below!
For my entire childhood, I played sports on multiple teams. I always hoped I would be playing basketball and baseball during high school. Unfortunately, I ended up being cut from both teams. I was devastated. Little did I know, this would open the door for a great opportunity.
As luck would have it, a new program came to my high school called Unified Basketball, which involves students with and without disabilities playing on the same team in authentic competition. I was able to play basketball and share my love of the sport in a new way. I was immediately surprised that the practices were just like the ones I was used to. We practiced our shots, played scrimmages, and even ran sprints. It was much more than just helping other kids learn about the sport.
My favorite part was when we got a partner and shot free throws at the beginning of practices. I didn’t know my partner, Colin, very well, because he attends a special school for students with disabilities. On the first day, Colin told me he was not interested in playing any games, but he would practice every day. I made sure to tell him he would have fun playing in the games; they’re the best part of basketball. He refused. We stepped to the line, and Colin made no effort to make the basket. He simply pushed the ball away from his chest and dropped it. After a few days of that, however, he let me start teaching him to shoot the ball correctly. He even ended up making seven out of ten free throws. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get Colin to play in any of the games that season.
I did not even attempt to play baseball or basketball the following year. I had fallen in love with Unified Basketball. When the next season came around, Colin and I partnered up again. We started talking about our day as we shot free throws and became closer friends. I was even more determined to get Colin to play in the games, but he still was not interested. Eventually, he agreed to try.
He didn’t take a single shot during his first two games, because he panicked when he got the ball. I decided to change our practice routine and help him shoot the ball right off the catch. By the end of the week, Colin knew he was ready. A few minutes into the game, we ran a play getting Colin an open shot. I passed him the ball, and he drained it. The gym erupted. His face lit up and so did mine.
I came to the realization that seeing my teammate achieve something he never thought he would made me happier than if I had done it myself. Prior to this, I played sports for my own enjoyment. I never thought seeing someone else’s success would fill me with so much pride. I would not be the person I am today without Unified Basketball.
If you would like to bring the Unified movement to your school, please click here.