by: Carlin Costell and Ashley Ford
The Allied Sports program is an integral part of the Glenelg community.
Through soccer in the fall, bowling in the winter, and softball in the spring the program is designed to provide students with disabilities an opportunity to be part of a sports team and to participate in an athletic setting.
The program gives students with and without disabilities a chance to develop friendships and an understanding of the value of teamwork, which, according to student aide Amanda Preston, was most evident in their soccer season.
“Soccer is such an important outlet for these students,” said Preston, who got involved with Allied Sports her freshman year. “Even though it only takes an hour out of my day a few times a week, it means so much to the athletes and some of them look forward to it all day.”
Preston also lauded the value of teamwork that the program prides itself on.
“I've seen so many aspects of teamwork through Allied Sports that you don't necessarily get from other sports,” she said. “Not only teamwork between members of the same team but overall teamwork of everyone on the field. Everyone works together to give athletes who might not usually score very often chances to get goals.”
Besides developing skills related to teamwork, first-year director and special education teacher Lisa McCollum said the program is most valuable because it builds a sense of belonging in the school community.
“Students feel included as opposed to excluded, because, as unfortunate as it is, they are excluded in many other aspects of the high school experience,” McCollum said. “Our fall athletic teams have done an outstanding job making them feel like superstars. They light up when their peers stand up and cheer them on at their games. The students were filled with joy when the boys JV Soccer team played in the county cup with them.”
McCollum hopes the program will continue to help develop athletes into “more mature and accepting individuals.”
If the soccer season offers any indication of whether McCollum’s hopes will come true, the program seems well on its way.