THE SQUAD – Members of the Crispus Attucks Unified Flag Football team are ready show their skills on the gridiron.
It’s Friday evening, and everyone is ready for the game. Uniforms and cleats are clean. Players are warming up and going over game plans. The players on the first Crispus Attucks High School Unified Flag Football team have been looking forward to their first season on the field.
Unified Sports includes students with and without disabilities in a variety of school athletics across the world. In Indiana, sports such as track and field and football provide opportunities for these students who enjoy sports to represent their school in a new and enriching way.
Currently, Crispus Attucks and George Washington — who play each other — are the only two IPS high schools with a Unified Flag Football team. Every student with a completed physical exam can join, but once the roster grows to 15 players, students will need to try out to make the team.
According to SpecialOlympics.org, there are more than 4,500 elementary, middle and high schools with a Unified Sports program.
“He loves it! He can stay after school, which is cool to him. He also enjoys being on the team with the other guys,” said Debra Strietelmeier when asked what her son thinks about being on the Unified Flag Football team.
Her son, Thomas, is a 10th grader at Crispus Attucks and a player on the new team. Since joining, Strietelmeier says her son “…is taking on more responsibility and more initiative. He is working with other people well. It is helping him to mature.”
In addition to the sheer excitement of being on the team and representing their school, Matt Bradley, a special education life skills teacher and coach, notes that his players are also learning about teamwork.
“Teamwork in the classroom is different than teamwork on the field, or court,” said Bradley.
While on the field, there must be three athletes (students with disabilities) and two partners (students without disabilities) at all times. Both partners and athletes are working together to strategize plays and understand how to become better players and better teammates.
In Indiana, the 2017–18 was the inaugural year for the Unified Flag Football program.
Bradley believes that as the program gains more awareness, more students will want to join the unified team(s). “Our team plays before the varsity football game, so parents, teachers and other students are exposed to the program. They see the excitement of the players, and then they see the players’ seriousness about beating the other team.”
Want to Watch a Game?
Members of the George Washington Continentals and Crispus Attucks Tigers will compete at 4:30 p.m., Sept. 26 at Northwest Middle School, 5525 W. 34th St.