Unified Sports comes to Section II

Program is a joint venture between NYSPHSAA and Special Olympics NY

Guilderland players scrimmage Thursday, May 1, in preparation for the season opener Monday, May 5.

Guilderland players scrimmage Thursday, May 1, in preparation for the season opener Monday, May 5. Photo by Rob Jonas.

“It feels amazing to be out there sweating my guts out,” said Fitzsimmons. “It’s different from playing (street) football.”

“Tim’s a very good shooter,” said Colonie coach Andy Monin. “The biggest thing for him is to get the ball up to his hand to shoot. Defenses may give him some trouble, but we have some great partners to help him (on the floor).”

Victor and Jason, both 15-year-old Guilderland High School students with developmental difficulties, said they are looking forward to representing their school in a team sport for the first time.

“It’s been nice shooting the basket(ball)s around,” said Victor.

“It doesn’t really matter if we’re the best team,” added Jason. “I just want to have fun and congratulate any team that’s the best.”

The main requirement for the partner athletes was they couldn’t have played for their schools’ varsity basketball teams. As a result, the partner athletes are a mix of boys and girls who only play the sport on a casual or recreational basis.

“This is considered to be a sport, so it can’t be an athlete who already played varsity basketball this season,” said Gallagher.

Mark Fyvie, a Guilderland junior, said he has played basketball since third grade, but this experience is as rewarding as any he’s experienced.

“I see them having a lot of fun and wanting to play, and I want the to have fun and play as much as possible,” said Fyvie.

Allyson Johnson, a Colonie senior partner athlete, is learning the sport alongside the athletes she’s working with.

“It was a little difficult learning all the rules of basketball, and being short doesn’t help,” said Johnson, who played softball one year ago.

Still, Johnson said she’s having as much fun as the athletes she’s partnered with.

“I love working with them. They make me laugh, and we have a great time. They just love being out here,” said Johnson.

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