UW-Madison Student Reflects on Playing in Unified Basketball Game for NIRSA Championship

May 12, 2016

My experience with the Unified Special Olympics is a memory that I will cherish forever.  I have played on many teams from high school sports to little league baseball, but this was by far and away one of my favorite teams to compete with.  Seeing the athletes compete with such passion and leaving everything they had on the court was unbelievable to be able to watch and participate.  I had a great time competing with the team, as I know that they did too.

One of my favorite memories from the tournament came in our third game of the round robin portion of the tournament.  Our team had been leading the entire game and had been playing really well as a group.  We were making shots and gaining confidence as a team.  In the late stages of the game, the Montclair team started to make a little bit of a run and cut our lead to two points with 15 seconds left.  We came down on our next possession and missed the front end of a one and one at the free throw line.  Montclair brought the ball down and one of their athletes hit a step back three in the closing seconds and that ultimately won the game.  Every team that I have played on in the past would have been very frustrated and walked off the court in disgust.  Our Unified team, however, did one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in sports.  We all lined up shook hands with the other team after a hard loss and all congratulated Montclair’s athlete on the incredible shot he had just made.  All of the athletes on our team handled the loss with so much class and it is just a testament to the program that the Special Olympics have created.  The respect that has been instilled within the athletes competing is remarkable.

Although we didn’t win any games, we continued to get better each game and continued to have fun.  We were able to meet many new friends and competitors from Alabama, Montclair, and Central Michigan.  This basketball tournament was a great experience for all the athletes that participated as well as the Unified Players.  The athletes are already talking about next year and what it will take for us to perform a little bit better in the 2017 tournament.  I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this team and Project Unify in the upcoming years.

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity,

Eric Zeman


For more information on Project Unify, please contact:

Don Wigington

Director of Unified Sports
(608) 442-5905

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