Unified Basketball Brings CRLS Athletes Together

Boone Gross and Lily Grodzins

Under all the talk of CRLS’s teams like football, soccer, and crew, many seem to fly under the radar. Case in point, CRLS Unified Basketball. Unified Sports is defined by the Special Olympics as having, “people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team… [as] training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”

Both within and outside of our school, stigma against people with intellectual disabilities is prevalent and tangible.

Unified Basketball has gained a more official air since being incorporated into the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) rulebooks. The MIAA has tried to strike a balance between official basketball competition and skill development, with aspects like 50/50 splits between “Athletes” (students with neurological differences) and “Partners” (students without). Coming off of the travesty that was the new playoff format and rating system, which traded diversity in sport for big money games between perennial powerhouses, the MIAA has done what few expected: actually followed their bloody mission statement. The MIAA was founded to increase interscholastic understanding and strengthen the youth community of Massachusetts through sport, education, and diversity. This is an example of sports doing what they are designed to do: foster understanding and give people a platform to be seen, heard, and represented. Unified Basketball and unified sports in general show us that sports really can be for everyone, if given the right support and resources.

When talking to Anna Ruiz ’25, a star member of CRLS Unified Basketball, she said to the Register Forum that it was fun “passing the ball to my teammates and shooting the ball into the basket,” adding that, “my team was nice.” Getting to play in front of a crowd, having people cheer for you when you score, and most importantly being supported by your team—these are opportunities that should not be denied to anyone.

Unified Basketball should be an example to the rest of CRLS. Both within and outside of our school, stigma against people with intellectual disabilities is prevalent and tangible. For a school that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, when it comes to accepting and honoring the contributions of people with disabilities, we still have a long way to go. However, despite these challenges, the CRLS Unified Basketball team is a model of what inclusion can look like.

As Nelson Mandela put it, “sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” But that doesn’t apply without proper media coverage, resources, and support.

This article also appears in our November 2022 print edition.