The Special Olympics Unified Sports experience can mean different things to different people. For Southwest High School Unified soccer teammates Sophia Martinez, Jovann Plascencia, Eriberto Prado and Samuel Zamora, their time on the team has had several benefits.
The four, along with six other teammates, are headed to Seattle for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in July.
Sophia has a positive mix of nerves and excitement as the competition draws closer. But no matter what, the pure fun and health aspect of competition is “the best part.”
Eriberto, meanwhile, “feels good” when he’s around his teammates and they step on the field.
The Allied Amigos club on campus jumpstarted the friendship between the athletes and Unified partners, and that’s where the idea of competing alongside one another through Special Olympics Unified Sports first started.
For the Unified partners, the honor of being selected is not lost on them.
Samuel, in particular, said “the smiles” on his teammates’ faces have made a lasting impression.
“The best thing you can do is make other people happy,” Samuel added. “That’s the main reason why I wanted to do this.”
Soccer has connected a group of athletes, both with and without intellectual disabilities, who may not have otherwise crossed paths. Together as one unit, they are all equals with one common goal.
Jovann sees a longterm effect that the experience will bring.
“It’s very exciting, it’s very cool,” he said. “It helps you become a better person.”