February 01, 2013 | Updated: January 29, 2019

By Tela Mange

The Houston Hot Shots Live Unified and Play Unified, and they like it that way! The Hot Shots and some friends from the high school service group Corby's Castle formed a Unified Volleyball team called The Towers. It's a decision they're all very happy that they made.

(Unified Sports is a program that combines athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to form sports teams for training and competition. Unified Sports dramatically increase inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities into the community by breaking down barriers that have historically kept these people apart.)

SOTX athlete Patricia Threatt said that playing with her Unified Partners has made her a better player. "We are now at a higher level of play. Now we can work together and do better," she said.

Unified Partner Lisa Eicher said that playing on a Unified Volleyball team allows her and the other Unified Partners to get to know their SOTX athletes as friends. They all agreed that they would encourage their friends to get involved in the Unified movement. "It's fun!"

Coach Susan Donaldson said she's pleased with the Unified Partner program. "Unified is wonderful. It brings the athlete's ability up a notch. We like our athletes to play hard, and playing with their Unified Partners also helps them with their social skills," she said.

And, with this week's announcement by the U.S. Department of Education that all schools in the United States will be required to provide athletic opportunities for all students, including those with intellectual disabilities, the future for Project UNIFY is very bright. The Houston Hot Shots and The Towers have shown us what the future could look like.

For more information about Project UNIFY, see our website at http://www.sotx.org/get-involved/athletes/sports/unified/.

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