CARMEL, Ind. — A new ESPN list recognized one Indiana high school for going above and beyond for their unified sports program.
Carmel High School was one of just 34 schools across the country to make the 2019 ESPN honor roll, part of their Special Olympics unified champions program.
Unified sports include both students with and without special needs.
"With over 5,000 kids in the school it is very hard to make any sports team,” said Carmel unified football coach Jamie Barnes.
On Monday night, the unified football team took on Fishers in front of a packed house with the varsity team packing the stands.
"We’re close. Everybody’s close," Barnes said. "We have people out here who want to be here and really support each other.”
Carmel's team has 25 players, 16 are partners and 9 are athletes with special needs. Five players are on the field at a time.
"When you go out there there's three athletes and two partners," Barnes said. "But the whole idea of the sport is you don't know which ones are athletes and which ones are partners. They’re all just playing together and nobody knows which is which, they’re just having fun.”
"It's great to see her participate. She gets up for the games,” said parent Rick Mossler. His daughter is a senior playing on the Carmel team.
"Unified sports is just a great way for typical kids and kids with special needs to get together and have fun," Mossler said. "I think both sets of kids really benefit from it. It's just a wonderful thing.”
Cheering on from the stands, the varsity football team was impressed with what they saw.
“The whole defense is outstanding," said Carmel football coach John Hebert. "Then Jason the quarterback, he’s thrown two touchdown passes! Whenever he has the ball the offense just moves, it’s beautiful.”
Even though it still gets competitive, it’s not always about the score. It’s about students coming together to make life-long friends and lasting memories.
“Last season we hardly ever scored, but we were always happy and having fun," Barnes said. "And that’s what really matters.”