Getting the ball rolling with unified bowling


Alissa Lau

Peer coach Erin Geoffray with athlete Marcos Rodriguez at the last bowling game on April 5.

Alissa Lau and Olivia Kim

Unified Bowling is an opportunity for students with disabilities to train with peer coaches outside of the special education program and to compete with other schools. Peer coaches work alongside the athletes throughout the season, providing assistance to the athletes. The spring sport is a space for all students to compete and bond with those both inside and outside of the special education program.

Peer coaches are students from outside of the special education program who help to encourage the team members during practices and games, getting everyone involved and ready to compete.  

“It’s a really phenomenal program to have kids of all walks of life meet and collaborate and play with each other and… just learn to be humans,” special education teacher and Unified bowling coach Jessica Huber said.

Unified bowling coach Ric Calhoun said the Unified Bowling team was created so students with disabilities who aren’t able to participate in school sports can develop the skills that come from sports and team bonding. 

“There’s certain pieces that you’ve learned from [sports] that were not what you would normally think— friendships. Just how to work together and just some of those special bonds,” said Calhoun.  “When they are allowed to do [sports], it’s very generally just within their small community. This allows them to be a little bit more involved and more inclusive with the rest of our Inglemoor community.” 

For senior peer coach Erin Geoffray, a highlight of Unified Bowling is the opportunity to get to know the athletes more outside of the school environment.

““I just like that I get to hang out with these kids more outside of school, especially because they’re really fun to hang out with. And sometimes when I’m in class with them, we can’t have as much fun together because we’re working more,” said Geoffary. 

Sophomore peer coach Isaiah Villavicencio said the enthusiasm of cheering on players is his favorite part of being involved in Unified Bowling. An important thing for athletes in Unified Bowling is getting cheered on by their friends and family, who may not have been able to see them participate in other high school athletics, said Huber. 

“Some of the biggest moments every year are when our cheerleaders come out and support the team,” said Huber. Many of the athletes haven’t experienced people cheering for their hard work before, which is one small thing that many people take for granted, Huber said. 

Though the specific sports and dates have not been announced, Calhoun said a new unified sports along with a unified club will be introduced next year. These additions will give students with disabilities a larger range of inclusive extracurricular opportunities at school. Freshman Kelly Johnson said she is also involved in unified sports outside of school and is interested in participating in other school offerings for student athletes with disabilities such as unified soccer. 

Unified sports creates a sense of community that can be felt within the team, and creates an uplifting atmosphere for everyone involved in the sport, said Calhoun. 

 “There’s just nothing like being at a Unified or Special Olympics event. It’s very unique and uplifting and a total community in itself, even with the different schools,” said Huber. “Everyone’s cheering for each other, cheering for the other team. It’s a really positive environment. These kids and these athletes are the definition of resilience and I wish that everybody would come to see and celebrate that.”