March 8, 2012
By Ryan O'Keefe
Faculty versus students! That’s sounds like a good way to get an entire student body excited to watch an exhibition basketball game. Now throw in the fact that the student team is a unified team consisting of 14 students and 9 Special Olympics athletes and we’ve got a highly anticipated exhibition.
For Progreso High School students in the Valley, Tuesday’s basketball exhibition was more than a break from school. The game was a chance to learn more about Special Olympics and the Meet in the Middle program. Blanca Munoz, Head of Delegation for Progreso, had been trying to put something together for more than a year. So when she pitched the idea to the principal, he quickly jumped aboard and so did the faculty. Munoz says that 16 teachers signed up right away and more wanted to participate.
The Spread the Word to End the Word exhibition game was now on. The school decided to hold the game during the last period of school on the Tuesday before Spread the Word to End the Word Day. Over 500 students packed the gym and almost all cheered on the Unified team--of course.
“This is something new to them. Most of the students never heard of Meet in the Middle or knew very little about Special Olympics. This was a great opportunity to introduce them to both in the hopes they would get involved and be a unified partner or a Meet in the Middle participant,” said Munoz.
It was a close game, but the Unified team was able to pull away with the victory, 54-49. Munoz says the athletes were so excited to be playing in front of the school. After making each basket, they would break out into a dance.
“It was amazing to see the kid’s faces. Their eyes would light up when they scored. They were just so thrilled to be a part of the game. It was rewarding for them and for me as well,” said Progreso Teacher/Coach Margarito Jimenez.
Even the staff was quite surprised at the athletic prowess of the unified team.
“Several faculty members told me that it was a tough game. They didn’t expect them to be that good,” said Munoz.
“Their knowledge of the game was unbelievable. They took it seriously, but they had fun too. This whole experience has opened my eyes to the world of Special Olympics,” said Jimenez.
There are already plans in the works for next year, as Munoz builds support for a unified soccer game that will be held after school so parents can attend. It’s another chance to showcase Special Olympics Texas to the students and break down some old stereotypes.
“I don’t think I will have any problem finding faculty for that one (soccer game). A few have told me that if you need something we’ll be there especially if we have to play the kids again. We’ll be there,” says Munoz.
Jimenez added, “Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I need to kick a ball, rather than bounce one.”
Sounds like a good rematch, but I’m thinking the unified team will be crowd favorite once again.