Unified bowling brings athletes, special needs students together

The Ralston High School Unified Bowling team recently completed its season. Pictured above, front from left, Autumn Holmes, Brylee Johnsen, Tyesn Hancock. Back, Trevor Petriw, Tyler Birch, Michael Madej and coach Cindy Raders. Not pictured is Sean McKean.

Ralston High School’s Unified bowling team wrapped up its second season last month, ending a short but productive time in building bonds among teammates.

Unified bowling is a collaboration between the Nebraska School Activities Association and Special Olympics Nebraska that allows special needs students and general education students to compete alongside each other in a sport. This was the second season the sport was sanctioned by the NSAA, and Ralston’s team had eight members this year.

“The kids had a blast,” Coach Cindy Raders said.

“Overall it was just a good experience for all of them to be able to compete together as a team.”

Raders said she had a young team this year, so while the team struggled in terms of wins and losses, she said all the team members appreciated the experience.

“Kids could interact together,” Raders said. “(Special needs) get a chance to see how the (general education) students act and the things that they do. They get to experience that with their peers.

“Gen ed students get to see some of the challenges that the students with special needs might be facing.”

The team practiced in downtown Ralston at Scorz Sports Center, which let the team use the facilities for free, Raders said.

Over the past two seasons the team has traveled to Fremont and even as far away as North Bend but hasn’t hosted yet.

Raders said the team plans to host a tournament at Scorz next year.

In competitions, the team used Baker format, where three bowlers take turns bowling frames to contribute to one 10-frame game .

General education students were able to compete in a fall sport and be on the unified bowling team, and Raders said she tried to work with coaches to allow for fall athletes to participate.

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