WAYNE, NJ – During the November 14 Wayne Board of Education (BOE) meeting, Director of Student Services for the Wayne School district, Jennifer Varano and the two Assistant Principals of Athletics at Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley, Jeff DiLollo and David Drozjock announced the upcoming debut of Unified Sports in the high schools’ athletic programs.
Unified Sports is a part of the Special Olympics and a part of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and will include athletes with and without disabilities on the same organized sports teams.
In Wayne, the high schools will have Unified Sports teams for Basketball in the winter and Track and Field in the spring. They hope to expand into the middle schools as soon as next year.
The program is payed for by a grant from the Play Unified School Partnership of Special Olympics New Jersey. “The application was submitted through the collaboration efforts of student support services and the Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley Athletic Departments,” said Varano as she addressed the BOE.
DiLollo was on NJSIAA subcommittee for Unified Sports for three years while he worked in the Randolph School District, so he knows the program well and pushed to bring it to Wayne. “About ten years ago, the Special Olympics approached the State of New Jersey with a proposal for a joint effort, saying ‘we do sports with disabled individuals and you do school sports and we’d love to do something integrated,’ and out of that came Unified Sports,” said DiLollo. “This is the ninth year of Unified Sports in New Jersey.”
“I’ve been teaching adaptive Phys Ed for years, so I think it’s a great idea,” said Drozjock. “The teams will work together practicing, training, and competing in games and events, and this will promote social inclusion, positive relationships, friendships and understanding as well as the health benefits of athletics.”
There will be an equal number of athletes on both teams that are with and without disabilities and the only restrictions are that no varsity athletes can be on any Unified Sport team and that all participants must pass a physical.
Verano estimated that at least thirty to forty athletes will participate from each school.
The Wayne Hills/Valley rivalry will continue as the two schools will compete against each other in both Unified Sports.
“It’s really exciting stuff. We are looking forward to having a playoff game between Wayne Valley and Wayne Hills to kick it all off,” said DiLollo.
TAPinto Wayne will be there to cover their seasons.