By Embry-Riddle Staff
CHINO VALLEY, Ariz. – Members of the Embry-Riddles men's golf, women's golf, and softball traveled to Chino Valley on Thursday to teach athletes from the Unified Sports Program some golf tips.
Unified Sports is a program under The Special Olympics that promotes "social inclusion through sports". The program joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle; training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding (http://www.specialolympics.org/unified-sports.aspx).
The Unified Sports Program at Chino Valley High School is the only such program in the Quad Cities Area and takes place every day as a class at the high school led by Coach Jenda Ballard. "This all began when a parent of a student approached me about the program three years ago. I was very excited about bringing this program to Chino Valley High School." After administrative and school board approval the program started and to Coach Ballard, "The process was totally worth it. Unified Sports has changed the culture at the school. These students are now completely accepted by the student body."
Coach Kim and Mike Haddow became involved with The Unified Sports Program through their connections with Chino Valley High School and Coach Ballard, "Mike and I are connected to Chino Valley High School as former administrators, teachers and coaches there. Our daughters graduated from Chino Valley. We live in Chino Valley and feel it is important to support our schools and the students here. We know Jenda Ballard and her husband Pastor Wayne through CVHS and Grace Baptist Church where we attend."
As resident's and supporters of Chino Valley and the Coaches of the Embry-Riddle men's and women's golf teams it was a no brainer to connect the two programs, "I have been so excited about Jenda's Unified Sports program since its inception and have seen first-hand what a positive influence it has had on CVHS and our entire community. Jenda mentioned to me that golf was one sport that they had not done yet. Our ERAU Golfers are very passionate about golf and the opportunities it has afforded them. They had a desire to give back to other young students because of this."
The Embry-Riddle players also have a chance to discuss the NAIA LIVE 5 philosophy with all the Unified Sports athletes and discuss Integrity, Responsibility, Servant Leadership, Sportsmanship, and Respect.
For Sophomore Trae Jones it was an incredible opportunity to connect with the community and spread the message of Live 5 with all the participants, "Coming from a university it is important to show all the student's that we still have fun with golf and practice the Live 5 pillars. It was really fun and fast paced today and I had a chance to meet all the Unified Sports athletes. It was amazing to see how quickly everyone picked up golf!"
"Our ERAU Athletes enjoyed meeting these high school students and appreciated the being able to share their passion for golf. We were excited to provide the opportunity for these CVHS students to experience the game of golf. There were a lot of laughs, and a lot of cheers when the balls went in the hole! What a unique and fun day this has been for us and we thank Jenda Ballard, her students, and CVHS for it," said Coach Kim Haddow.
Not only do the participants in the Unified Sports Program learn sports such as track & field, golf and bocce ball but they have had a greater impact on the school hosting a Stop the Word, Spread the Word Rally on Campus and a Miracle Minute to help support the Unified Sports Program. The athletes are now in the process of preparing for a track meet.