Unified Basketball Team Begins Season


Alex Ingvoldstad

The Westside Unified Basketball team allows all participants to practice and play basketball, and helps bring people of different backgrounds together.

The Westside Unified Basketball team began their season this past week, with practices on Wednesdays after school. The club gives athletes with special needs and their partners the chance to practice and play basketball together.

Sophomore AJ Shefsky is a unified partner for the Unified Basketball team. He said he not only enjoys playing basketball, but that being a part of the team is very rewarding.

“[The best part] is knowing you’re helping all of the athletes and having a good time playing basketball.” Shefsky said. 

The season will consist of practices, games, and tournaments later on. Through Special Olympics Nebraska, the program helps partners and athletes to build on and improve their basketball skills and bond with their teammates.

[The best part] is knowing you’re helping all of the athletes, and having a good time playing basketball.”

— AJ Shefsky

“[I look forward to] seeing how much [the athletes] improve throughout the season,” Shefsky said.

Unified Basketball Coach Chad Samuelson has worked with and coached for the Special Olympics programs for 4 years. Samuelson said that the improvements he sees in the athletes are important to him as a coach.

“With Special Olympics in particular, you have the opportunity to see where the athletes [have] maybe never tried something that we ask them to do, but they’re able to do it and get better at it and they build so much confidence,” Sameulson said. “All of that makes it special to me as a coach, and that becomes what’s most important to me through coaching.”

Samuelson said that having unified sports programs at Westside plays a major role in bringing students of different backgrounds together.

“I think the gift that sports give is that camaraderie and a unified goal, and you also see people develop and become better at things that they didn’t themselves believe they were capable of,” Samuelson said.