Blue Heat Unified Sports Team Features One-On-One Instruction
Newtown High School’s Unified Sports program continues to grow every year, and this fall’s Blue Heat soccer team featured almost as many partners as athletes, with a combined 40 special needs athletes and the partners, student peers who worked with them, plus a small group of coaches.
“It really helps them improve their skills, and it helps them improve their socialization because they have someone working with them,” said Kirsten Tuz, an assistant coach with the team.
The Blue Heat held regular practices and participated in several competitions with opposing schools, including its home tournament with a half-dozen area schools playing in round-robin format at NYA Sports & Fitness in early November. The tourney included opening ceremonies and an awards presentation.
The Blue Heat is led by Coach Kathy Davey, and in addition to Tuz, assistant Margaret O’Callaghan.
With so many athletes, the Blue Heat broke into three teams.
“Somehow we make it work. Everybody works together to make things happen,” Davey said of the program having so many participants.
“It’s so much fun. Every week I look forward to it. It’s fun to see people interacting, especially during the dance breaks. We mix it up and have fun together,” said Izzy Mawdsley who, along with Robbie Morrill, is a student leader of the Unified program.
The dance breaks offer a fun-filled change of pace during game action, although the competitions themselves are designed to be fun-first experiences with sportsmanship front and center.
Not only do the partners assist their school’s team members — literally and figuratively — but they also help out opposing school athletes. The student athletes help one another, too.
“I love it. I work with the kids all day long at school, and I choose to come out and work with them in the afternoon because I enjoy it,” said Tuz, a paraeducator at NHS, and Mawdsley’s mom. “It makes a difference for them, and it’s a lot of fun for us as adults to be working with them.”
Davey said a new wrinkle this season was that the Blue Heat players showed up at varsity games and supported the Nighthawks out at Blue & Gold Stadium as well as in the gymnasium this fall.
“And the kids are loving it,” Davey added.
Unified Sports continues with basketball season throughout the winter.
Players and partners on the Blue Heat are: Garrett Fitzpatrick, Juliette Cryder, Andrew Hsieh, Karl Miller, Johnny Nowacki, Brooke Antous, Nick Rose, Brian Smith, Alex Chatzikonstatinou, Sophia Spraggins, Izzy Mawdsley, Jessica Andreotta, Taylor McPadden, Jordan D’Amico, Marisa Choi, Will Eagleson, Logan Flynn, Ben Ismail, Jackie Magoon, Gabby Calbo, Ben Suckow, Caroline Marlin, Jesse Viesto, Abby Grenier, Matt Vigneau, Lily Charles, Rebecca DiDomizio, Malia Gioffre, Dan Khissiamov, Meghan Coppinger, Kelly McLeod, Hope Moyers, Timmy Rogers, Robbie Morrill, Maddie Rose, Madi Zipperstein, Jessie Visca, Kaia Gioffre, Frank Welber, and Ruby Rankin.
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