Craig Harvey Staff Reporter December 8, 2016
Seven years ago, allied sports was started to give kids of both general and special education a chance to play unified co-ed sports. Now, it has grown into a program improving the lives of every person who is a part of it.
The program is designed to give kids, whether gen-ed or special-ed, an experience filled with real competition and intensity. It means the kids finally get to be a part of a team and have success on a sports field. This is just one of the few things that allied sports does for its players.
“I think allied sports really positively affects people. I think that for our players we have a mixture of traditional students or I should say general education students and special education students,” said Mr. Stuppy, coach of all the allied sports teams at Atholton. “It gives people an opportunity to just have fun. So kids who aren’t already involved in school activities can find something that they can do to support their school or be part of their school.”
Allied sports was created seven years ago in Howard County. According to Mrs. Defrances, there had been a nationwide push for unified sports in which kids of special education and general education could play together on one team. HoCo agreed with this movement and followed Montgomery County’s lead by modeling the program after theirs. This ended up being a great decision as allied sports here at Atholton has been well-received by everyone.
Although allied sports main focus isn’t winning or losing, it does play a factor for Atholton’s allied soccer team as they went 7-1-1 earning the county title. Marion Machen was a key factor in the team’s success and has been participating in the program for the duration of his high school career. When speaking with him, he reported that he couldn’t love allied soccer more. He said it is his favorite thing and that it’s so much fun. He loves scoring and kicking the soccer ball and looks forward to it everyday.
The program already making great numbers each season also draws a lot of support from the Atholton community, including other sports teams. “I think it’s great when the other teams come out and support them and even sometimes in the spring the softball team will come out and work with the allied softball team so they get an opportunity to be a mentor or be a coach for a day,” Mrs. Defrances said. This shows how infectious the sport is as so many other athletes are proud to give the kids their moment of glory.
Another essential part of the allied sports program is the team managers. The managers can do anything from getting the water for the team to being a second set of senses for a player out on the field. They give the players a push in the right direction, while providing a friendly face to talk to. The helpers also make allied much better by forming those friendships and interactions the players wouldn’t typically have in school. They can make the kids day just by showing up and kicking a soccer ball around.
“Willingness to give up your time is what we’re asking for. Good helpers are there to teach and there to assist but not there to complete the task for players,” said Mr. Stuppy. “It’s not about slowing down the pace it’s about making sure the pace can stay high.”
The managers are a great asset to the allied sports program. They make the coach’s job easier and the players job more fun, but they also gain a lot from the game themselves. Ben Lew, a manager of three years, had plenty to say about his experience and take aways from the game. ”As a manager I watched a lot of people who are players who have special needs. My freshman year I was a player and I think I learned that I don’t have to try as hard but I wanna help other people succeed. So like a lot of people who have special needs, put more attention on them, this isn’t a game or an activity for us to score all these goals it’s for them to have fun. So definitely not being self centered and helping other people would be my biggest take away.”
Allied sports is a thriving program that can hopefully continue to energize students on and off the field.