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The independent student media site of West Linn High School

wlhsNOW

The independent student media site of West Linn High School

wlhsNOW

Unifying the community through soccer

A sport defined by inclusiveness, Unified Soccer grants opportunities to those with special needs
Unified Soccer is open to all who would like to participate and is always looking for more people to help out.
Nicholas Hull
Unified Soccer is open to all who would like to participate and is always looking for more people to help out.

On Sep. 26, the Unified Soccer team was scheduled to play their first home game of the season. Their opponents, however, didn’t show. Although their scheduled game was called off, they still got to play. Instead of playing another Unified Soccer team, they played the mens varsity team.

Quinn Gates, sophomore, is a member of the mens varsity team and participated in the game against the Unified team.

“We were going to come out and support Unified Soccer and [we] were going to practice after,” Gates said. “But before we got there, [the athletic director] called us up and told us the sad news of the other team not showing up, so he asked us to compete against them. We did and it was a fun and exciting experience that helped the community out.”

Unified Soccer is a branch of the Special Olympics. It’s a team sport where students with special needs or mental, emotional, or physical disabilities get to play on the same field as students without disabilities.

The team is coached by Neal Glynn and social studies teacher Ryan Jordan. Glynn has been coaching Unified Sports since before he arrived at West Linn.

“Hopefully it gives them a place to have fun,” Glynn said. “It’s just an opportunity for them to do something where they might not otherwise have the chance to play a game and get to have fun, and they wouldn’t be able to do that without Unified Sports, so I’m glad I get to be part of that opportunity.”

Unified Soccer grants students with special needs a unique opportunity to play a high school sport with teammates they can connect with.

“It’s the best thing in the world because it’s an outstanding, supportive, and inclusive program,” Glynn said. “It’s a good chance for them to get involved with people they might not realize are around them and that they might not realize that they have a really positive impact on. It’s an opportunity for them to do something good for their community.” 

Students without disabilities that play with the team are called partner athletes, and can still get involved with Unified Sports. Students interested in becoming partner athletes can contact Glynn, Jordan, or health teacher Brynn Gunderson, who teaches the Unified P.E. class.

“It’s a really good opportunity to show the community how to be inclusive, how to care for others, how to demonstrate empathy, [and] how to demonstrate teamwork and support,” Glynn said.

Tess Pierce, junior, is a student enrolled in Gunderson’s Unified P.E. class.

It’s the best thing in the world because it’s an outstanding, supportive, and inclusive program. It’s a good chance for them to get involved with people they might not realize are around them and that they might not realize that they have a really positive impact on. It’s an opportunity for them to do something good for their community.”

— Neal Glynn

“I think Unified has great leadership opportunities, and it’s a good opportunity for them to be able to be team captains, and it builds confidence,” Pierce said.

Students such as Anna Paschal, junior, get to experience these kinds of opportunities. She is a captain on the team.

“I love Unified because it’s my favorite sport. I like how I do well with soccer and I can score goals, and I like blocking and defense and hustling,” Paschal said. “And I helped someone get back up.”

The team has room for more participation in the community and with other members of the school.

“Hopefully it becomes a more mainstream activity that everybody knows and respects and supports and hopefully it just keeps growing,” Glynn said.

Unified Soccer will play their next game at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 in Lake Oswego. For more information on the team’s schedule, check out the athletic calendar and keep an eye out for announcements on the Live Roar and the Roar Newsletter.

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About the Contributor
Nicholas Hull, Sports Editor
A sports enthusiast, Nicholas Hull, sophomore, is currently participating in his first year on journalism staff. In addition to writing articles about sports, he enjoys running cross country, singing, reading, watching sports, writing poetry, and playing board games. Hull has wanted to be either a journalist or sports broadcaster since primary school and hopes the skills he gains in high school will help him become a sports journalist for ESPN.
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