Unified Soccer a Big Hit in 1st Year at Ralston Middle School


The Ralston Middle School Unified Soccer team poses for a team picture. (Ralston Public Schools)
By 
Derek Noehren
The Daily Record

New this year at Ralston Middle School is the formation of a Unified Soccer team.

What is Unified Soccer, or Unified Sports in general?

According to the Special Olympics website, Unified Sports “joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”

The RMS Unified Soccer team consists of nine athletes and five mentor partners from both the seventh and eighth grades. The athletes and partners train and compete together.

Team Sponsor and RMS special education teacher Anne Heimann says the Unified Soccer team has been a great addition to the middle school.

“It allows students to build on each other’s strengths, to see each other as equals. It has helped build a great sense of community.”

The team officially formed in September, practicing every Tuesday after school, and playing games each Thursday at Bellevue West High School. Eight other schools are part of the league.  The Rams Unified Soccer team is currently undefeated in league play.

For many of the RMS unified athletes, this is their first experience playing an organized sport.

“Many of our unified athletes were not sure at first about playing, but once they started, they love being on the team, practicing and competing against other schools,” Heimann said. “They have so much fun!”

What Heimann enjoys the most is just watching all the members of the team practice and play together.

“To see all the smiles, laughs and the joy in their faces means so much to me,” she said. “They play well as a team and cheer each other on!”

RMS unified athlete Mikeal Lowe can attest firsthand to the merits of the new program.

“It has been fun learning new things like playing soccer and scoring some goals,” Lowe said. “I love making new friends. My teammates have all been so nice to me.”

For RMS mentor partner athlete Gavin Lopez, being on the Unified Soccer team allows him to further enjoy the sport of soccer while meeting some new friends and learning how to communicate with others.

“The best part is playing with others you don’t know and making new friends,” he said.

Unified Bowling

Ralston High School also participates in Unified Bowling, which is sanctioned by the Nebraska School Activities Association.

This fall, 67 teams were signed up to compete, with 30 teams in Class A and 37 in Class B. Ralston is the fourth largest Class B team by enrollment. The Rams are assigned to the Class B-1 District set for Nov. 30 at The MARK in Elkhorn. Other teams in the B-1 District are host Elkhorn, Elkhorn North, Bennington, North Bend Central and Wahoo.

Each district champion qualifies for the state championship (six in each class). The top two teams (total pinfall during district competition) that did not win their district qualify for state as wildcard qualifiers.

This year’s State Championship is on Dec. 6 at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln.

The NSAA also sanctions Unified Track and Field, which takes place in the spring.

For more information on Unified Sports in Nebraska, visit nsaahome.org/unified-sports.

Ralston’s 2021-22 Unified Bowling Schedule

Nov. 6 – Ralston at Millard West Invitational at The MARK in Elkhorn, 9 a.m.

Nov. 9 – Ralston vs. Bennington at Maplewood Lanes in Omaha, TBD

Nov. 15 – Ralston at York Quad at Sunset Bowl in York, 3 p.m.

Nov. 20 – Ralston at Fremont Invitational at Thrifty Bowl in Fremont, 9 a.m.

Nov. 30 – District Tournament at The MARK in Elkhorn, TBD

Dec. 6 – State Championship at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, TBD

 

This story was produced by the Ralston Public Schools. The Daily Record contributed to it.

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