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The City Journals

Bingham unified sport teams ready for competition

Feb 26, 2019 03:26PM ● By Julie Slama

Bingham High students can participate in unified basketball, track and soccer teams. (Photo courtesy of Alexus Brecht-Waite)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This month, 12 Bingham High student athletes will be participating in tournament play at the University of Utah.

These players will take part in unified basketball, a chance for students or athletes with disabilities to play with their peers or mentors who don’t have disabilities. These mentors may not be the school’s top athletes, but they are those who are dedicated and realize the difference the opportunity to play makes for the athletes, said Bingham’s new head coach of unified sports Alexus Brecht-Waite, who is a special education teacher.

“Basketball is a community sport, not a USHAA-sanctioned sport, but it still gives them a chance to play, and it allows mentors to help athletes, to play alongside one another,” she said, adding that she plays three athletes with two mentors on the court.

In addition to the March 15-16 tournament, the team already was slated to compete in games on Feb. 23, Brecht-Waite said.

In practices between games, the team works on dribbling, shooting, passing as well as scrimmages under the direction of Brecht-Waite, along with the assistance of counselor Emily Williams and South Jordan Police Officer Wayne Henderson.

“We have a wide range of talent, as some students have great skill, but others needing individual help in areas,” she said. “They all just love it.”

While overseeing the basketball team, Brecht-Waite also moved into the role of both the unified track and unified soccer head coach, with practices starting in the spring.

“Last year, our track and field athletes competed at Copper Hills, where they needed to meet qualifying times to compete at the state meet,” she said.

Athletes could race in the 50 meters, 100, 200, or 400 as well as the 4x100 and 4x400 relays with their mentors. They also could participate in long jump and shot put.

In soccer, both athletes and partners take the field together, again with the partners helping the athletes be successful in their own play, she said.

“In the past, we’ve brought home trophies in soccer,” she said, adding that the most current trophies are showcased in her classroom.

Already, Brecht-Waite has 12 athletes wanting to compete in unified soccer.

“We play at least four games, then compete in a championship bracket,” she said. “Our point is to have inclusion with our students. We want them to work together and bond. We don’t want anyone left out, but instead making friends, learning and being with their peers. It’s crucial that they are interacting with their classmates. These mentors are their peer role models and with their help, these students are able to have some of the same experiences in high school.”

Many of the team members also belong to the 40-member, Bingham Buddies club, which meets monthly and holds activities from bowling and snow-shoeing to kickball and playing holiday games. 

“It’s a chance for them to extend their relationships and do activities together. It also gives students a leadership opportunity to advocate for their peers with disabilities,” Brecht-Waite said. “Our athletes are as much as students as others who attend Bingham. Our unified teams are just as much as the Bingham sports teams as football or tennis. They’re competing and can earn an athletic letter or get a pin and certificate. They’re happy and proud to be Miners.”