Two Michigan schools host 'unified' basketball games for special athletes

General education and special education middle school students from Zeeland Christian School and Hudsonville Public Schools came together for an inclusive basketball game on Feb. 22 at Zeeland Christian.

ZEELAND, MICH. - Two schools in Michigan have come together to host two special basketball games for unlikely athletes.

General education and special education middle school students from Zeeland Christian School and Hudsonville Public Schools came together for an inclusive basketball game on Feb. 22 at Zeeland Christian.

Zeeland Christian School was invited by Baldwin Street Middle School to put the team together. An inclusion aid from ZCS, Heather Dannenberg, has a sister who works at BMSM who encouraged her to explore a program called Unified Sports.

Unified Sports is a program that combines inclusion and special needs programs with students in general education programs for training and competition. Unified Sports places students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team, aiding in the formation of friendships and better understanding.

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On the court, teams consist of three athletes and two partners. Team partners helped students dribble and pass the ball and did some on-court coaching to keep teammates engaged and motivated. Partners are not allowed to shoot unless pre-determined by team coaches.

After the game, Jack, a ZCS 8th-grader said, “I’m really sweating. Look, my head is really wet. I’m working so hard out there!”

Other students were just as happy as Jack for being on the teams, while others wished there were more games planned.

Zeeland Christian School shared a video of the game on Facebook, the video has gained almost 10,000 views.

“It's not easy putting something like this together,” said Brittany Van Byssum, ZCS Inclusive Education Teacher and event organizer.

"But, when you see smiles on the players' faces, hear the middle schoolers cheering and look over at the parents with tears in their eyes, you know all the effort put in was worth it.”

© 2017 WZZM-TV


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