Special Education students from Heights and Mesa View middle schools were given an opportunity to play the two sports in the Mesa View gymnasium with the assistance of Gifted Education program "partners," providing direction and other help.
Working in conjunction with the Special Olympic's Project Unify program, the Unified Sports program is an initiative designed to bring students of differing abilities from different schools together to compete. The scrimmage was the program's first event.
Mesa View Assistant Coach Renee Journey said she hopes the program will bridge gaps between the schools as well as between the kids.
"Whenever you have a child that wants to play sports and you want them to get involved, they need someone to play against," Journey said. "The parents want to bridge that gap between everyone but putting on a game like this, a simple scrimmage, it helps with everyone's self esteem."
The fans in the stands applauded with every basket made as the special education athletes ran up and down the court with their partners following behind, trailing their path to the goal.
The partners were able to help the athletes dribble or pass the ball to a teammate. The teams were switched up every quarter, giving everyone an equal chance to play.
The court was full from the combination of the athletes and their partners. And the majority of game time was spent with the players gathered at one end of the court or the other.
While the teams were competing, both sides were patient as some athletes needed more time to prepare for their shot or pass to another team member. A hula hoop was taped to both backboards to allow students with less arm strength a chance to put points on the scoreboard.
Molly Hewitt was eagerly
"It gets him out and gets him around more people, it lets him have a lot of fun," Hewitt said.
After the basketball game, floor mats were moved into the four corners of the court to setup for the mat-ball game.
A variant of kickball, the large mats allow multiple players to be on the same base at the same time.
Soccer balls were soon flying through the air as partners helped the athletes run between bases and avoid being tagged out.
Logan Cooper, a seventh-grader from Mesa View, said he enjoyed being able to help out the special education students since they might not have the same opportunities as everyone else.
"I'm sure you would not like it if you were this age and you couldn't do everything with everyone," Cooper said. "Most of these kids have wanted to play sports all their lives and now they get the opportunity."