New unified bowling program offers unique bonding opportunities


Aditi Jain

Kaitlynn Worthen and Alexander Running talk about their memories and experiences on the team. They said they liked how it gave them the chance to focus on getting better and interacting with others.

Getting a strike was, according to participant and freshman Alexander Running, his favorite memory.

“It’s hard for me to aim the ball sometimes, and the fact that I actually got a strike,” Running said, “that filled me with more joy than winning a competition ever could.”

The new unified bowling team is a 50-50 split with six partners and six participants, who are the students with developmental disabilities. The season continued from Jan. 11 until Feb. 26. They practiced at Kenmore Lanes and competed twice every week against other teams in the area, including other high schools in the district.

“The goal is mostly just to build connections and unify students,” coach Kaisa Hall said. “The whole point is inclusion and having fun in a non-competitive school environment.”

After being a paraeducator in the special education department for four years, coach Ric Calhoun said he missed spending time with students in the program, and he liked the chance to be with these kids again.

“It’s an opportunity to interact with these children. Most athletes do separate sports, and they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to be with kids who don’t have these opportunities,” Calhoun said.

It all started in 2018, when the NSD superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid tasked the athletic directors in the district with finding a unified sport for each season. Last spring, unified soccer made a debut. This year, the athletic directors decided to try unified bowling for winter.

Partner and junior Dayton Lewis said that he has learned a lot during these past weeks of bowling with other students. Originally joining because of friends, Lewis said that he ended up loving the supportive atmosphere.

“With the special education kids, I think having someone there to cheer you on, just be there for you, is really encouraging,” Lewis said. “It has taught me a lot, too — them and what they do has really opened my eyes. For one thing, they know how to smack-talk, which is really funny, and it just opened my eyes to different walks of life.”

As a player, Lewis said he had high hopes for the season. He said he loves talking and bonding with the team. Participant and freshman Kaitlynn Worthen said she likes to bowl with her family because of this team.

“I like that it’s fun,” Worthen said, “and there is no competitive stuff so, basically, you’re just competing against yourself. That’s what really gets me.”

Likewise, Hall said it is the enjoyment that matters at the end of the day.

“For me, it is a way to celebrate every accomplishment; it’s not exclusive in the way that most sports are. All students are welcome, not just those classified as special ed. You can just get out there without the pressure to perform,” Hall said. “Just go out there and have fun.”