Putnam High Builds Unified Sports Program
Hartford Courant - 2/20/2019
Feb. 20--The Woodstock Academy gym was filled with onlookers when a Unified basketball game was held on Feb. 11.
Individual team members from Killingly, Putnam and Woodstock were announced with fanfare before the start of the games. Each player's entry onto the court was greeted with clapping and applause.
Unified sports are like no other. Special Olympic athletes are teamed with partners on the courts and playing fields. And while partners can't score, they can assist their teammates by passing the ball, finding open players and defending against opposing team partners. These are minor differences to the athletes who love to compete in a league that welcomes them. Unified sports gives them that chance.
Athletes took their shots from the paint and from beyond the three point line. They brought the ball downcourt time and again. They passed to open teammates. They tried to break free from whoever guarded them. When a shot connected, they raised their hands in victory. Then they ran back to defend their basket.
The games were broken down into 8-minute quarters. Substitutions were made as needed. But after every basket, and after every quarter, all of the athletes were greeted with warm applause from the stands.
Gail and Tom Masso came to watch their son Thomas play for the Putnam team.
"He's not tall, but he's fast and he can shoot," Tom Masso said.
True to form Thomas brought the ball downcourt for his team, acting as point guard for most of an 8-minute quarter.
Gail Masso was happy to see the Putnam Unified basketball team up and running in time for basketball season. Putnam has had a sporadic history with Unified sports. Special Education teacher Pamela Cody stepped up to coach this year, her first in town.
"I can't say enough good things about her," Gail Masso said. "She's been phenomenal. "
But Cody would like to see more people come out for the sport. She currently coaches five athletes and two partners. Because of the small numbers, Putnam has been partnering with Woodstock Academy for practices and scrimmages. That's a challenge for a small school in a small community.
Cody wants to offer track and field and bowling in the future. She welcomes any students interested in learning more about the sports. It's not just about sports for Cody. It's about changing the culture.
"It's important not only for our kids but for the typically achieving students," she said. "That's how you change cultures. That's how you create a culture of inclusiveness and understanding."
Gail Masso agrees.
"It's a good thing for all of the students," she said. "These kids have the same feelings."
"Kids are busy," Cody said, "but I want them to know how much fun this is."
Her door is always open to anyone interested in joining.
"We love visitors," she said.
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