Special honor for Dartmouth High unified athletics coach
When John Breault arrived back at his alma mater as a teacher four years ago, one of his goals was to bring a unified track program to Dartmouth High School.
Now, the program has grown to two sports that brings together athletes with and without disabilities, an additional club, and a new honor for Breault: MIAA Unified Athletics Coach of the Year, as he learned over April vacation when he received the email confirmation.
“It was a nice surprise, and it’s definitely a special honor,” Breault said as he coached teammates on long jumping during an April 23 practice. “I knew [Ross] Thibault and Jeff Caron nominated me, but I didn’t expect anything from it.”
Breault was chosen by a committee of MIAA officials after submitting a detailed package to the nomination group, including his resume, letters of recommendation, and a list of his accomplishments.
Breault, working together with teacher and hockey coach Michael Cappello, began the school’s first unified athletics track team four years ago. The program was an instant success, and by year two a new basketball program was added.
Last year, bowling was added as a club with a more flexible weekly practice schedule. It reached a new segment of students who might have been unsure about participating in team sports, Breault explained.
This year, there are 43 students on the track team, and 18 were on the basketball team. Bowling averaged about 20 kids a week. Although somewhat competitive, it’s more about encouraging cooperation and uniting students in the school’s general and special education programs.
“It’s cool to see the kids interact, even if they’re different,” Breault said.
Tenth grader Sarah Waltz is an athlete on the track team. She knew Breault for years, and he had asked if she was interested in joining the team.
“It’s so fun and it’s my favorite part of the school day,” Waltz said. “[Breault] just values everybody, and he understands what you can and cannot do.”
“It’s fun just seeing the whole entire team together to get a win for Dartmouth,” added tenth grader Travis Tetrault.
Junior Dom Belo added the team is more of a big family, and provides a valuable outlet for students with special needs.
Breault will officially receive the award at a reception in May.