Lacing up his sneakers and joining his friends on the court, junior Konstantin Melder is ready for practice. Unlike many student athletes around the halls of FHC, he doesn’t find practice grueling and exhausting; for Melder, it’s a privilege.
“My favorite part of being on the team is being able to meet new people,” Melder said. “Playing every week also helps me get my exercise.”
Staying active, competing within the community, and perfecting their play, FHC’s very own Special Olympics basketball team has their season underway and off to a great start, thanks to the hard work of Melder and many other athletes.
Unlike previous years, this season’s team is assembled exclusively of FHC students. In prior seasons, Forest Hills Northern, Forest Hills Eastern, and Forest Hills Central all partnered in the creation of one single team. With FHC alone having enough athletes this season, they have been given the opportunity to form an “FHC only” basketball team.
“It’s nice having a team of solely FHC kids,” partner Mo Haji said. “We get to know the kids more, and are able to form stronger relationships with all of them.”
This year, FHC has created a “Unified Team” that takes the court every week. With the “Unified Team,” Special Ed students called the ‘athletes’, and non-Special Ed students called the ‘partners’ team together, taking the court.
“There are some established rules for the partners, such as no shooting,” Passinault said. “They act as facilitators, and help the athletes during practices and games.”
With the season already underway, the team has been excelling, showing more talent week after week. Building up their skills, the FHC team prepares to take on tough competition February 20th, in the season’s final tournament at Cedar Springs.
“I can’t wait to play in the tournament,” Melder said. “I like seeing all of the others teams we get to play against.”
Competing week after week, these athletes have learned more than just the fundamentals of the game.
“We talk a lot about teamwork,” Melder said. “All of the kids on the team are nice and fun to be around.”
Co-coaching the team, Steve Passinault and Dane Spielmaker are teaching more than just the game of basketball.
“We set three goals to begin the season: learn about the game of basketball, learn what it means to be a good team member, and have fun,” Passinault said.
Being able to stay active, and compete with his friends means more to Melder than you might think.
“I love basketball because I get to hang out with my friends,” Melder said. “It’s cool that we get the chance to play.”
Coaching the team full of FHC students, Passinault has realized that they just might have impacted him more than he’s impacted them.
“Each of our Special Ed students has a unique personality and brings a positive spirit to the team,” Passinault said. “It’s been a pleasure getting to know these kids better.”