I have been playing competitive sports for as long as I can remember. First it was soccer, then field hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, track and just about every other team sport out there. My favorite aspect of team sports is that atmosphere of being in a competitive environment where you are working together with your peers to compete for a common goal, whether to just have fun, or sometimes to win. The type of connections and friendships that are made through team sports can’t be forged in many other places, which is why it is essential that the opportunity to be on a team should be available to everyone, no matter the level of ability.
I have also had the incredible opportunity to be a part of Special Olympics Unified Sports. There is something unique about being part of a Special Olympics Unified Team that most other team sports seem to lack. It isn’t the competitiveness, or teammate support, or effort required, it’s the people that make being a part of a Unified Team so amazing. This summer, I have the honor of being a Unified Partner on the New England Revolution Unified Soccer Team and it is incredible! Every time our team gets together on the field, it is clear that this is the only place in the world that everyone wants to be. Whether its practice or game day, this amazing energy emanates from each and every player which is something that I have yet to find on any other team I’ve been a part of. As a Unified Partner, it is technically my role on the team to assist the Special Olympic Athletes on the field, but the amazing thing about Special Olympic Unified Sports is that it is truly a team effort. Partners and Athletes instinctively work together, and, as cheesy as it sounds, both teach the other so much more than just how to pass and kick. The amount of dedication, time, and hard work that each Special Olympic Athlete puts in is so incredibly inspirational.
I’m lucky enough to be on New England Revolution Soccer Team for my second year with my twin brother Jimmy. Jimmy and I have been playing Unified Sports together since we were eight, first with soccer then playing on a unified basketball team that my mother started when we were about 10. After almost over ten years of playing Unified Sports together, I have grown comfortable and almost dependent on having him with me on the field, knowing through the use of our, as Jimmy calls it, ‘twin telepathy’ that he will always be there, either ready in net for a shot when an attacker beats me or ready on the post for a pass. Being a part of the Revs Unified team has taken the level of Unified Sports up a notch for both Jimmy and I, making the experience all the more rewarding. Having professional soccer players helping to coach, support and aid our team not only provides more teammates and friends, but also incredible role models. Watching players like Andrew Farrell and Josh Smith train shows our Revolution Soccer Team the dedication required for competitive sports, and inspires us all to put in that extra hour on the field to work on our shots or our corner kicks.
On game day, at the Unified Match, we not only had the incredible opportunity to play in Gillette Stadium, but we had stands full of fans cheering both teams on throughout the entire match, but we had professional soccer players on the sidelines coaching and cheering us on as well. This has been a once in a lifetime experience that few people can ever say that they had, and in true Special Olympic fashion we all left the field feeling like winners, every single player walking away from the field with a smile, just happy to be able to play the sport they love with a stadium full of fans cheering them on a very SPECIAL team.