Unified soccer provides Beetdiggers’ opportunities, memoriesJun 21, 2021 02:50PM ● By Julie Slama
Jordan High’s unified soccer team breaks through their sign at the Salt Lake regional tournament, where the team brought home the bronze medal. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Jordan High junior Steven Cummiskey said that “all of it’s good” about playing unified soccer for his school after his team won the bronze medal game at the recent coed Salt Lake area regional tournament.
The student-athlete said the medal is “going to go by the one I got from the basketball games” he earned earlier this year with his teammates, referring to the gold unified basketball medal from the regional basketball tournament.
“I like playing, and I like my teammates,” he said. “We have fun.”
His coaches, Jenna Fox and Taylor Stone, who stepped in when the Beetdiggers’ coach Dave Mecham had to be out-of-town for the tournament, said that was part of their goal.
“They had a blast, everyone really enjoyed playing,” Stone said. “They’re getting to play in a team setting, some of the athletes and partners haven’t played before, some are wanting to get better, and others are there to help their teammates. The peers understood the spirit of the game and got the ball to their teammates to shoot or to be able to play. It’s become a supportive community.”
The team started out with five student-athletes and two partners at the start of the tournament, but as the May 1 all-day tournament continued, other teammates were able to come, boosting their numbers to 12 to play in the playoff game against Murray High.
“It was a really fun day, everyone seemed to enjoy it,” Fox said. “They’re really great kids and love being together, even off the field as some of the partners bought their teammates snow cones.”
Stone agreed: “It’s fun to see them outside of school, in a different setting, having fun together.”
Fox said that she saw more than just competitiveness out on the field.
“There was sportsmanship,” she said. “They cheered for each other and for the other teams. They’ve developed friendships, and it’s a school memory that they will never forget.”
That is something that Courtnie Worthen, Unified Champion Schools manager who oversees the unified sports program, appreciates.
“We hope this helps to create lasting friendships, where they see each other in the hallways and say hi, eat together at lunch and have fun,” she said. “This helps to build camaraderie. I’d love to host unified dances or see clubs that help build leadership with the students and their peers.”
While those on the field had to follow the safety and health precautions as other high school teams, the tournament was set up regionally to reduce travel and have less teams playing at a site to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, Worthen said.
Before the school year ended, the coaches hoped they would be allowed to hold a pizza party or some way to celebrate the unified team’s success this year.
Next year, unified soccer in Utah will become a fall sport, allowing year-round unified sports, with basketball in the winter and track in the spring.