Students have a ball at Unified Sports bowling tournament
Posted on 02/19/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Feb. 17, 2014 — Pins stand at the ready, bowling balls wait at the start of each lane, and Woodlawn Bowling owner Bob Nugent’s booming voice is giving the day’s athletes a run-down of alley rules.

Shoes that have been out in the winter elements are absolutely banned from the lanes, he exclaims. Be careful when you’re throwing the bowling ball, he reminds them.

Then Nugent jokes he will be providing musical entertainment—his own renditions of “Wrong Direction” and “Justice Bieber” songs— and you remember the day’s competition is all about having fun. It’s the no-pressure Southern Connecticut Conference Unified Sports high school bowling tournament between West Haven High School, Woodbridge’s Amity Regional High School, Madison’s Daniel Hand High School and Milford’s Joseph A. Foran High School.

The Feb. 12 event accommodated about 60 participants and was the second Unified Sports tournament held at Woodlawn that week.

The Unified Sports program gives students with special needs a chance to hone their skills in soccer, basketball, track and other sports and work with student volunteers, or “partners,” who are often from a school’s other athletic teams. WHHS Unified Sports athletes have weekly practices in soccer, basketball and track, depending on the season, but don’t have practice in bowling. Still, they participate in an annual tournament to have a good time with other teams and spend time on a different sport.

“It’s once a year, and they get to have fun,” says Alison McBride, an Alma E. Pagels Elementary School psychologist who coaches Unified Sports with Pagels physical education teacher William McDermott. “It’s relaxed, and they have a blast.”

WHHS has had a Unified Sports program for eight years and currently has a roster of about 20 students, according to WHHS Athletic Director Jon Capone, who was just chosen by Special Olympics CT and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference as this year’s Presidential Award winner for his work with Unified Sports in West Haven. Capone not only oversees the WHHS team, but he’s also been instrumental in making the SCC’s overarching Unified Sports program a success as the SCC Coordinator of Unified Sports.

“This program is really important to these kids, and they give their all at every practice and tournament,” Capone said. “It’s great to see how much fun they have and how far they come over the course of a season.”

At last week’s tournament, Unified Sports athlete Cheyenne Leyerzapf, a WHHS senior, said she enjoys bowling and getting to see the other teams. She plays weekly with her friends at Woodlawn, but said she enjoys playing all kinds of sports.

Alexis Severino, a WHHS soccer and softball player, volunteered at the tournament with the WHHS Unified Sports team.

“This is my first time. I’m the score-keeper today,” she said. “I see these kids at school and at lunch, and they’re the sweetest kids.”

Unified Sports athletes and volunteers were treated to pizza during a break and then finished up their 90 minutes of bowling, as colorful lights lit up the lanes and music blared from the sound system. No, Nugent didn’t end up singing for them, but he still made sure everything went off without a hitch.

“It’s all about the kids,” Nugent said. “That’s the reason I do it. The kids love it.”

Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114;