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Unified Tennis Team Continues to Phenomenal Success of Unified Sports at WHS

by Caylee Winpigler

Walkersville has won a state championship recently, although it may not be for any sport that you have in mind.

Though it may have been congratulated over the announcements in the past two years and there may be a sign out front recognizing this achievement, the student body is still not completely aware of this sports team’s accomplishments. Walkersville High School is the proud state champions of unified track and field for two consecutive years. Right now, we are approaching the unified tennis season, for which our team won the state championship in 2014.

What is unified? The Special Olympics characterize it as “an inclusive sports program that combines an approximately equal number of Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities) on teams for training and competition” (http://specialolympicsva.org/share/Unified_Sports_quick_ref_and_3_models.pdf)

What do the participants gain? According to a WHS physical education teacher Jennifer Kendro, the children “get skills, practice, and exercise,” Kendro then added, “They have the ability to be part of a group where they are accepted and equal. They are a bigger part of the school outside of the classroom.”

This is not Kendro’s first time at the unified rodeo. She currently is teaching the unified gym class as she had done last year. “Teaching a class is one of the most rewarding experiences because special ed students can become successful based on their own merits… It gives them an opportunity to be themselves.”

Regular competitive sports teams “are not efficient in accommodating to students needs like unified tennis, bocce, and track can” said Kendro.

Ninth grader Bradley Phelps said his motivation for playing this year was because he wanted to stay in shape. Phelps added “I thought [participating in tennis] was a lot of exercise and it gets your body to think smarter and it makes your agility higher.”

Beyond working with incredible students, there are other positives associated with playing. Practices are twice a week for all unified sports. This makes it convenient to hold down a job, complete homework, or participate in other activities; two days a week is not hard to schedule around. In addition, you can also obtain volunteer hours for any of the sports. As a requirement of many honors societies you must complete volunteer hours and this is a quick and easy way to accumulate hours for the stretch of roughly a month and a half.

Luckily, it is not too late to sign up! If you are interested in joining see either Coach William Scheetz or Counselor Dr. Debra Phebus. Here is an overview of the information you need to know:

When is paperwork due? All paperwork is due by September 9, 2016.

Where can I find the paperwork?

-Go to education.fcps.org/whs/

-Click Extracurriculars and go to Athletics

-Underneath “Helpful Links” you can print out a doctor’s form and you can register for unified sports

When will practices be? Practices are from 2:30-3:30pm twice a week. The first practice is August 31st. Dr. Phebus has a printed version of the schedule. Tennis matches start at 3:30pm. On November 3,  2016 is the state tournament at Towson University.

If you are not available currently please come and take part in unified bocce or track. Bocce is a winter sport and track is a spring sport. As an experienced unified sports member, senior Uriah Hickman said “I am looking forward to track because I am a fast runner.” Hickman has been on many successful relay teams over his four years in unified track. He definitely made a great contribution to the state championship title.

By joining unified activities, you can meet more incredible students like Hickman and Phelps. It is a pleasant environment to be in and the unified members hope to see you in one of the three sports.