Wareham Unified Athletes Bring Home More Than Medals
You could hear the excitement in Wareham High Unified Track Coach Megan Kashner's voice describing the 12 athletes who made their high school proud.
"This was the first time we had every member of the team qualify for state championships," she said. "Everybody makes the sectionals, but not so with the state competition."
The way sports brings people and different countries together, unified sports also connects athletes both with and without intellectual disabilities to train together and compete. The simple principle of unified sports is that training together and playing together optimizes a pathway to friendship and understanding.
"The athletes brought home some state medals, which was cool, but to hear them cheering-on the other athletes they were competing against, made the whole day. That's the best part, because that's what unified sports is all about," Kashner said.
For her, it was more about the athletes' sportsmanship and the encouragement they shared with others.
"After a competitor does a long jump, everybody's high-fiving and fist bumping, and it's just so positive," she said. "It's all about kindness and positivity, which gets lost in high school athletics, where it's all about winning."
The team has resonated with the Wareham community as well, as evidenced at their last home meet on May 6 with Old Rochester Regional High School.
"We had so many people come out to cheer us on," Kashner said. "That encouragement, positivity and gamesmanship is what's essential. Sure, we want our athletes to do well and make progress, but I think in the end, unified sports makes people feel like they're capable, and can do it."