Unified Soccer Team goes to first-ever tournament

Newly formed Unified soccer team places fifth at tournament for students with intellectual disabilities.

Smiles beamed off the faces of the athletes on the Mill Valley Unified soccer team as they received their ribbons for fifth place in the first ever Kansas Unified Soccer League tournament on Sunday, Oct. 20.

The KUSL is a league that involves schools in the Kansas City, Kansas metro area. The league gives schools the option to form a soccer team that consists of five students with intellectual disabilities, who are classified as athletes, and five volunteer students without intellectual disabilities, who are classified as partners.

The first ever KUSL tournament on Sunday afternoon was set to wrap up Unified Soccer for the fall season. At the tournament, hosted by Harmon High School in Kansas City, Kansas, five schools including Mill Valley were represented.

Special Olympics Kansas director of sports Clint Armistead was proud to have such a great turn out over the weekend while seeing students come to support their teams coming from Bonner High School, Harmon High School, Schlagle High School, Washington High School and Mill Valley High School.

“While only 38 students participated this year, we saw the program reach hundreds of students as spectators and supporters of the program,” Armistead said.

Although Mill Valley’s team did not do as well as planned, they still put up a fight. The team lost the first game as well as the second. But in the second game of the day, they lost after a five minute overtime and penalty kicks.

Sophomore partner Natalie Brinker hopes the team has better luck during their next season in the spring.

“I hope that there are some guys who play soccer that will join and help the team to improve,” Brinker said. “It will probably help to have some guys working with our athletes instead of only girls.”

Brinker also hopes that even though she cannot continue with the team in the spring she hopes to play in future years.

“I think I will play again next fall and hopefully by then the team will have a bigger fan base,” Brinker said. “Considering the type of encouragement we are trying to create for the athletes I hope more schools decide to create teams like this one.”

Armistead’s goal for the league is that it continues to expand and have a multitude of teams and sports by the end of the school year in 2015.

“We hope this program reaches 12 schools by the end of the school year. Next spring, we will open this up to area middle schools. By summer we hope to introduce a new sport,” Armistead said. “My biggest goal other than introducing new school and sports is to get whole school engagement. meaning to get more students out to watch out games and support these players.”

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