By Kevin Eickman
One of the hardest things of the high school experience can be a sense of belonging. There are many ways to be a part of a group and one of those ways is through athletics. Sure, we all have seen the star athlete receive the adulation for their accomplishments. What Milford has in Unified Basketball is the same thing, only better. Unified Athletics is growing throughout Delaware and Milford is no exception. For the second season in a row, Milford has placed a fun-loving group of student athletes who are participating in the program.
We stopped by to catch the opening game of the season as the Buccaneers faced off against Cape Henlopen. In a game that featured amazing talent, beautiful people and fantastic fans. While Milford would end up winning the game 31-22, the score was the least important item in the contest. What was most important was watching basketball players get their chance. Besides playing basketball, players also got their chance to teach, get a chance to learn and most importantly have fun on the big stage of the Milford Central Academy gym.
Make no mistake about it, this is a competition, that’s why they are keeping score. More importantly however, this is a chance for everyone to bring out their inner athlete, the competitor within. Perhaps most inspiring would be the game of freshman Liberty Miller. Early in the game, Miller was slightly injured and had to spend some time on the bench. She was able to return to the court in the second half, and even scored on a layup, causing a huge eruption in the gym.
The teams are required to have three Special Olympic athletes on the floor at the same time. The excitement that each player feels is genuine, speaking with eighth grader Nathan Waydelis following the game, it’s evident that this is serious and fun all rolled into one. “We played really well today, it was so much fun to get the win. Me and my teammates work really hard at this, getting the win feels great,” Waydelis said. “We want to win every game; we have a really good team and I love being a part of it.”
Speaking with coach Robert Croce following the game, he considers it an honor to coach this team “This is all about fun and participation. We have such a great group of players here, they work really hard, a lot harder than people know.” Croce added “They really are into basketball; they understand that nothing is getting handed to them. Every day they come to practice; they give it their all. Every game, they leave it all on the court.” At the end of the day, we are just one big happy family trying to play basketball as best that we can. But the most important part is fun. Every day we come out here we have a great time and enjoy ourselves.”
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