Unified Basketball At Goffstown


Photo credit Kyla Pothier of k.m.p._photography

Arianna Girzone, Staff Writer

This year, Goffstown High School has added a new sport to their repertoire: Unified Basketball. The Special Olympics organization defines Unified Sports as joining “people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.” The concept of Unified Sports is to get kids that otherwise wouldn’t be involved in sports to be a part of a team. Teams follow the basic principle of “training together and playing together [as] a quick path to friendship and understanding” to enhance the experience for everyone. Unified Sports are being adopted by many schools around the United States and even the world. The expansion of Unified Sports has reached 4500 schools in the United States alone since its founding in 2008.

Specifically, Unified Basketball has three athletes and two partners (also known as helpers or mentors) playing simultaneously on the court. In the state of New Hampshire, there is a competitive league and a recreation league. Goffstown participates in the recreation league and has five games on their schedule. The team consists of six athletes and eleven partners, ranging from ages 14 to 21. In their season, they will play Unified teams from Londonderry, ConVal, and Hollis Brookline away, and Concord and John Stark at home.

Coach Heuslin, the Unified Basketball coach at Goffstown, is very excited about coaching the team. “I really enjoy working with this entire group.” says Coach Heuslin.   “Everyone is enthusiastic and wants to be part of this experience which has made it a lot of fun. The team supports each other, and everyone is always so positive.” This is the first year in many years that Goffstown has had a Unified Basketball program. “The athletes’ energy for the game is contagious and the mentors/helpers have been phenomenal. Everyone from students, to staff, to parents have been incredibly supportive as well.” Coach Heuslin also talks about inclusiveness in the program: “The opportunity to be inclusive so that everyone gets the chance to play for their school and feel the support of their community is really important.  It is also a fun way to meet different people, build friendships, and also practice lifelong skills like staying active to promote a healthier lifestyle (mentally and physically).”

Coach Heuslin and I have worked hard to put together a good group of mentors and athletes that embody the principles of a strong Unified program (“training together and playing together [is] a quick path to friendship and understanding”.) Having taken part in the Unified PE course taught by Coach Hueslin since quarter four of the 2021-2022 school year, I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety of benefits of working as a mentor and wanted my classmates to have the chance to compete on a Goffstown High School team. Being part of the Soccer and Softball teams and having the opportunity to play sports for Goffstown is something that means a tremendous deal to me personally. Offering Unified Sports provides opportunities for many classmates that otherwise would never have the chance for similar experiences to represent their school and their town within the athletic arena. The support at the Concord home game on Wednesday, January 18th was outstanding from all of the parents, teachers, coaches, opponents and students alike. The fan section was packed, and the game was televised on Goffstown TV (GTV). Our talented athletes came to play and took home the win! We look forward to continuing on with our season and expanding on the opportunities for the entire school community to benefit from this rewarding experience.

If you are interested in viewing a replay of Wednesday’s game, follow the link here.