Rocky Hill Unified Sports team at the National Unified Champion School banner presentation on October 25
Rocky Hill High School, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, received a national honor and a banner to hang inside their gymnasium at last Friday’s Pep Rally. The banner is to recognize the school’s continued efforts in providing inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities through their Unified Sports program.
The ceremony, held at the high school, celebrated the Terriers’ Unified programs for meeting national standards of excellence in areas of inclusion, advocacy, and respect.
Athletic director Richard Seidman called it a special honor to receive the recognition, which is only given to a select number of schools.
Seidman added that he’s excited about the growth of the school’s Unified Sports program, which is led by coach Chris Bachand.
Bachand first got involved with Unified Sports at Griswold Middle School six years ago, before transferring to the high school and taking over the program at RHHS.
“I got a chance to see the enjoyment of not only the athletes faces but also partners and coaches. Unified is like nothing else. It is sports at its purest form,” stated Bachand, who has been at RHHS for the past four years, “From high fives after a goal from the other team, to helping others score a goal and feel the accomplishment of helping the team. There are no tears or yelling at your teammates or coach. Just smiles, high fives, and new friendships.”
Bachand, who found out that the program was being recognized after receiving an email from CIAC Unified Sports Director Bob Hale, credited the athletes and student mentors for their time and dedication.
“I think my students are the most well-known, coolest kids in the school,” Bachand said his athletes and mentors, “Everyone knows all of our students by name and they help them with more than just their sports, they helped them with their classes and basically everything else on a day to day basis.”
Currently Rocky Hill has Unified teams in soccer, basketball, bowling, and track, as well as, a Unified Arts and Theater program led by Paul Meyers.
Bachand, who also coaches wrestling at the middle school, said that school’s Unified programs have been successful because of student participation and the help of the Special Olympics and Best Buddies, a non-profit organization that helps pair mentors with individuals with intellectual and developmental disability.
“It’s been great to see, especially during halftime of games or the pep rallies that we’ve been doing the last couple of years. The cheering, it roars every time we score a goal. In Unified drama we did a basketball skit and every ball went in. It’s great to see them out there and when they are in the hallway it’s just like every other athlete, they get the high fives and compliments.”
The honor from the Special Olympics well-deserved for a truly Unified group of athletes at Rocky Hill and Bachand added that he hopes that Unified Sports, as a whole, continues to grow and that the athletes get the recognition they deserve, “I am looking forward to a fun-filled season where the kids will learn and improve their skills as well as the values of teamwork, sportsmanship, and fair play.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin