Carmel High School student Megan Daggett loves that the Indiana High School Athletic Association has added another unified sport to go along with track and field.
“Unified events are super-important because it gets the special needs athletes involved and it builds a relationship with the athletes that you can’t build outside of a team setting,” she said.
Daggett is playing for Carmel in the inaugural Unified Flag Football State Tournament. Host Carmel will play Ben Davis in the sectional Sept. 29. The winner plays Warren Central, which drew a bye, in the sectional final.
Carmel, Zionsville and Noblesville were part of pilot program that held scrimmages and a tournament at Purdue in the fall of 2017. All Unified Sports pair athletes, those with intellectual disabilities, with partners, those without intellectual disabilities.
The games feature five players, three athletes and two partners, on each team. The games are played on a 25-yard by 40-yard field. The four regional championship games are set for Oct. 6 with the four-team state finals Oct. 13 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, the Indianapolis Colts’ training center.
Special education teachers Jamie Barnes and Lydia Watson are co-coaches of the Greyhounds. Both had worked with Carmel’s Unified Track & Field Team, and Barnes said they had a blast.
“I believe that Unified Sports is a great way for everyone to see how much people with disabilities and without have in common,” Barnes said. “Throughout the team there is a range of athletic abilities, but what they all have in common is that they enjoy spending the time together and playing sports. I also believe it is a great chance for students to see each other somewhere other than the classroom.”
Carmel has a team of 26 players.
“Unified sporting events are incredibly important because they are an opportunity to make a real impact within my community and on an individual level,” CHS player Misha Rekhter said. “Moreover, these events allow me to learn more about the power of inclusion and compassion. This ability to help people and grow as a person is unparalleled and makes Unified Sports so great.”