Changes to Special Olympics basketball game unify the student body


The assemblies at FHC range all the way from watching teenagers race each other on tricycles, to court members performing tik tok dances, to stellar performances from our now top ten dance team, to quasi rock concerts right in the middle of the gym.

Each assembly brings something different, from slight changes or tweaks from the previous year to something completely brand new. 

The school’s most recently inaugurated assembly, the Special Olympics basketball game, was both familiar and foreign, and it encompassed all qualities of what a good assembly should be. 

For around the past five years, the district has had an athletic program designed specifically for students with cognitive disabilities. Created by a teacher at Eastern as a team made up of members of all three high schools, the group would get together to practice and play basketball. 

A few years ago, each high school accumulated enough members that they could separate, and there have been three tournaments between all three schools, with each school getting to host one. 

Junior Kennedy Rudolph, a player on the team, is quite enthusiastic about her involvement, particularly last week’s game. 

“I loved the special Olympics game,” Kennedy said.

Here at FHC, the game has been during the day where attendance has been optional, until now. For the first, the game has been during a mandatory assembly.

“The optional [game] that we’ve done in the past has been great,” athletic director Clark Udell said. “This was just kind of a way to involve the whole school. I think it was great that it became kind of a mandatory assembly. It didn’t seem like many kids in the gym were bored.”

The athletes on the team also have the opportunity of partnering up with other members of the student body, referred to as “buddies.” 

Junior Whitney Currie, Kennedy’s buddy, was a big fan of the decision to make the game an assembly. She admires the fact that it honors how supportive the team has been of others in the past. 

“It’s so cool to see Rangers come and support the team because they’re always coming to support everyone else,” Whitney said. “[It is] showing that everyone supports everyone at our school, which is really, really good.”

Udell agrees with Whitney that the school does an excellent job of uplifting and highlighting different and exciting sections of the student body. 

“I would say I think our student body responds well to anything that their peers are involved in,” Udell said. “Whether that be the marching band, or the drumline, or the musicals or the plays, or robotics. I think the special Olympics was a little bit outside of the normal athletic type thing, but people still loved it.”

The athletes and buddies love the game as well, and they practiced once a week on drills, shooting, layups, and more. 

“The practices are very fun,” said Whitney, who has been friends with Kennedy since first grade. “We work hard, but they’re really fun, actually.”

Still, the effort appears to be worth it. For Kennedy, the hard work paid off with success at the game.

“My favorite part was when I made a basket,” Kennedy said. “I felt so happy and proud.” 

Whitney agrees with the pride aspect, though she found the prospect of the basketball particularly daunting due to her lack of knowledge of the sport. For their first game, at Eastern, the full crowd worked against Whitney’s nerves, but the crowd calmed her when it was later full of Rangers. 

 “At the first game, I was a little nervous because I’ve never played basketball before and the whole school came,” Whitney said, “but having the team in front of Central was cool because they were so proud.”

Pride, one of the pillars at the school along with tradition and excellence, was most definitely exhibited at the assembly. But the other two pillars could be found as well. A new tradition was created and the supportive reaction of the crowd and talent of the team was nothing short of excellent. Udell recognizes this, praising Rangers for their consistently commendable attitude.

“It doesn’t shock me at all that our school responds so well to the Special Olympics team, because it seems like our student body is very supportive of what their peers are doing,” Udell said. “That kind of makes Central High pretty special. I think not every place is that way.”