While the rest of the Champlain Valley Union spring sports are in the midst of preseason, there is one Redhawk program already off to a winning start.
The Unified Basketball team — which partners student athletes both with and without disabilities on the court — is off to a 4-0 start, just one year after winning the inaugural state championship.
“I know that winning the championship at the Patrick Gym in 2016 was a lifetime highlight for several of our athletes,” said CVU co-coach Peter Booth. “There are definitely players, both athletes and partners, who would love to win another title.”
The CVU team has already won games over Burlington, BFA-St. Albans, Colchester and Milton to start the year.
Unified sports is in just the second season of basketball under the Vermont Principals Association, which also added bocce and bowling this season. The program is in partnership with Special Olympics of Vermont, and is growing. Basketball started off with 16 teams this season compared with 12 at the end of last season.
The wins have attracted crowds for the Redhawks, who are enjoying the notoriety.
“We had our first home game last week, and our side of the stands were full of students and faculty and staff,” Booth said. “Having a crowd at our games is something that our athletes and partners really enjoy. It just elevates their sense of belonging and pride.”
But the CVU team isn’t content with just participation. They are looking to improve as the season progresses and they get ready for another title run.
“Several of our players this year have been playing with us for all three seasons, and you can really see the improvement in their basketball skills and their ability to understand the game,” Booth said. “It’s been fun to watch.”
Booth said basketball is strong but expanding the unified program will likely attract more students to participate.
“The interest in our team has been pretty consistent from the outset,” Booth said. And as the rest of the spring athletes wait for sun and warm weather, the unified athletes for CVU are already enjoying the chance to represent their school.
“Honestly, our primary goal is to have a good time and enjoy the season together,” Booth said. “We have had a really great group of kids all three seasons that we have done unified basketball.”