Unified basketball team enjoys full season of growth
After going virtual last year, Dartmouth High’s unified basketball team returned to the court this fall for a season to remember.
This year’s squad was allowed a full seven-game season in which the Indians had a 4-3 record.
“It’s absolutely fantastic these kids were allowed this opportunity,” Coach John Breault said. “We’re so happy it turned out the way that it did.”
He noted that due to the pandemic, the team was limited to virtual workouts and yoga sessions. It was only in the Fall II season this past winter that the team was only able to get in a few in-person practices and two matches against Durfee.
“It was really great to get back to that traditional format,” Breault said.
Unified Sports utilizes sports as a catalyst to promote inclusion and acceptance within the school community, Breault explained.
Teams include athletes with intellectual (and sometimes physical) disabilities and their partners, regular education peers who act as guides on the court. This year’s squad had a roster of 22 players evenly split between athletes and partners.
The team is also coached by fellow special-ed instructor Ashley Kocur-Pierpon.
“Our group of seniors — athletes and partners — were absolutely phenomenal,” Breault noted. “We’re definitely going to miss them next year.”
This year also saw the program partner with UMass Boston as part of a study looking at social and emotional learning.
“It really helps our amazing athletes grasp a better understanding of what unified sports can truly bring,” Breault said.
After starting things off 1-2, the coach said his team finally began to click, winning all but one of the remaining games.
The team capped things off with an annual jamboree tournament at Durfee High in Fall River. Dartmouth lost the first contest to Old Rochester 30-26, but rebounded to beat Dighton-Rehoboth 28-26.
“Some real close games, but a lot of fun,” Breault said.
While it was nice to end things with a win, Breault was even more proud of just how much his team had grown during the season.
The coach said along with strengthening their game fundamentals such as shooting and defensive skills, players also developed stronger friendships and sportsmanship.
“These kids truly grew together,” he said. “They’ve really come a long way since that third week in September.”