What being part of a team means

Natalie Lemmen '24, Staff writer

In collaboration with the Special Olympics, the students on the Unified Basketball Team are able to learn the value of friendship through the art of the game.
Unified Basketball team coach Stephen Zaranek said he finds great joy in watching the students grow and work together as a team.
“Without a doubt, witnessing the progress of teamwork and seeing our boys and girls work together, display their powerful emotions and see the support and sportsmanship they share, is truly beautiful,” Zaranek said.
Nathan Dodson, parent to player Asher Dodson recalls telling players on his own sports teams that he coaches to ignore the crowd and try and keep their head in the game. For these kids, he believes the crowd is what keeps them going and makes their experience more memorable.
“Sometimes playing in front of a crowd and hearing the crowd say your name is just part of the background,” Dodson said. “But for these kids, it feels like love.”
Watching and cheering at these games from the stands puts the things most people take for granted into perspective. According to Dodson, students who may have felt disengaged from South and the activities our school takes part in now feel like they are not just part of a team, but they are part of a family.
“It’s just given him (Asher Dodson ‘25) a sense of belonging that sometimes a lot of the kids don’t get,” Dodson said. “I think the best part of the team is being part of a group of friends. I think it’s comforting to him. It gives him a lot of confidence”
According to coaches and helpers, the unified team centers around making the players feel included and part of something. Students at South step up and help volunteer in the program, from running drills at practice to passing the ball to kids at the game. For these helpers, it means a lot to be able to be part of something so special.
“Being able to help these kids in games feels really special, especially knowing how much of an impact it will have on them,” helper Charlie Lemmen ’22 said. “It all seems worth it when seeing the joy the sport brings to the kids.”