Bulldogs’ Unified Sports team competes in tourney

By Kathryn Elliott - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Fri., Mar. 18, 2011
Stafford High School Unified Sports athletes and peer students work together on the court. Photos by Kathryn Elliott.
Stafford High School Unified Sports athletes and peer students work together on the court. Photos by Kathryn Elliott.

Eighteen Stafford High School students represented the Bulldogs in the 2011 High School Unified Sports Basketball Tournament on March 8 at Tolland High School. According to the CASCIAC website, Unified Sports is a registered program of Special Olympics that combines approximately equal numbers of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on sports teams for training and competition.

In adherence with Unified Sports guidelines, a mix of special needs and peer students represented the Bulldogs. School psychologist and co-coach Laura Hayes explained the selection process: “We had a fantastic blend of kids,” she said. “Students with disabilities, referred to as athletes, practiced together four or five times with peer students, called players. The players cannot shoot or advance the game, but keep the play moving and allow the athletes the ability to shoot and score.”

The Bulldogs competed in a round-robin format against teams from Tolland, Bolton, East Hartford, Ellington, Manchester, Rockville and Woodstock. Teams competed in a minimum of five 30-minute games in which the fundamentals of basketball were coupled with the Unified Sports model of matching both athletes and special players, all of similar age and matched sport skill ability.

“These kids won my heart,” Hayes said. “It is very important for all athletes, regardless of skill, to be part of positive social events. It helps develop teamwork and a real sense of camaraderie. The athletes and players worked beautifully together. It was a pleasure to watch, and I was so proud of all of the kids.”

At the end of the day, the Bulldogs and all other teams were awarded gold medals for participation. Hayes hopes to continue the school’s involvement with Unified Sports through upcoming tournaments in volleyball and bowling.



Coach’s Corner-

SHS Unified Sports Coaches Damian Frassinelli (SHS Athletic Director) and Laura Hayes (SHS school psychologist).

Goal for the team: “To have fun and play like a team,” said Hayes.


Spotlight Players-

Logan Rosenberg, Senior: A first-year basketball player, Rosenberg brings drive and determination to the Bulldogs. According to Hayes, “Loganis a great team player with lots of energy.” In addition to basketball, Rosenberg also participates in Unified bowling and volleyball. Rosenberg spends her free time as a volunteer for Room to Grow and McDonald’s. When asked what her favorite part of the tournament was, she replied, “Winning!”


Stephanie Zdebski, Senior: Taking shot after shot in the Tolland tournament, Zdebski drove to the hoop early on and kept up the pressure for the rest of the day. “Stephanie did fantastic. She’s really doing a great job out there,” Hayes said. Also a volunteer, Zdebski contributes her time to both McDonald’s and Johnson Memorial Hospital. Her favorite subject in school is gym and she also plays on the Unified volleyball team.


Way to go Stafford!

It was a pleasure to read a positive and inspiring story about Stafford public education. Coach Laura Hayes's personal comments about her care for the student-athletes and the joy she gets from working with them is inspiring. I wish all coaches in high school sports talked about their team the way Hayes did. The athletic director is to be commended for supporting such a postive athletic program for young people. Way to fo Stafford High School!

Let us know what you think!
Please be as specific as possible.
Include your name and email if you would like a response back.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.