October 4, 2022

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Sports Really Satisfies

Christian academy hosts Unified Sports Basketball Game | Sports

The K-12 North Valley Christian Academy hosted its inaugural Unified Sports Basketball Game on March 23 to celebrate differences by bringing together teams of students with and without disabilities for fun. 

Inspired by a previous NVCA event hosted along with Special Olympics Unified Sports, the game was hosted solely by the Anthem school. 

However, the event maintained the same spirit of inclusion of the broader Special Olympics Unified Sports competitions, which serve more than 1.4 million people worldwide.

“As someone who has worked with the Special Olympics for several years, I have seen the impact that sports can have on young people and it is truly life-changing, especially for those who may have previously thought they could never compete at this level,” said Scott Brown, NVCA athletic director. 

“For some of our students, this was the first time they’ve ever done anything like this, and the amazing thing is, there were hundreds of their fellow students and families in the stands cheering them on.”

Brown, the former director of AIA (Arizona Interscholastic Association) Unified Sports, has seamlessly added Unified Sports and Special Olympics programs to the school’s sports programs and offerings. 

His dedication to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences is a reason NVCA’s sports program has grown and is successful.

The school’s boys high school basketball team won AIA’s 2021 1A State Championship tournament, just three years into the program and under head coach Randy Walker — marking the second time the team advanced to the state championship game under Walker.

“The arrival of Unified Sports in our athletic department and worldwide has been a gift for millions of young people and has helped to break down stereotypes and false ideas about those with disabilities,” Walker said. 

“Team sports are integral to our society. They bring people together, and there’s no reason why anyone should be left out; that’s what this event is all about.”

NVCA’s strong support for Unified Sports and Special Olympics also stems from the school’s commitment to providing a safe, strength-based, research-based, positive intervention strategy plan — in addition to a faith-based educational experience — for each child. A prime example of that commitment includes the school’s B.E.S.T. Program, which is a student success program aimed at supporting, nurturing, challenging, celebrating, and encouraging eligible students with disabilities and gifted and talented traits.

“Our parents and students love the B.E.S.T. program, because it helps us to identify where children are at in their development and move them forward to achieve their highest and best potential,” said Lori Fox, B.E.S.T. program director.

“The B.E.S.T. program is designed to help our students gain confidence, overcome obstacles and stretch for even higher goals because they know they have a team committed to supporting them.”

Emily Ciliberti, a B.E.S.T. coach, dedicated this year to making Unified Olympics a positive and uplifting experience for the entire campus.