Special Olympics high school basketball tournament highlights importance of inclusivity

A basketball tournament is highlighting the importance of being inclusive.

On Thursday, Special Olympics Minnesota hosted the Minnesota State High School Unified Basketball Tournament at Target Center in Minneapolis.

It included Bemidji High School, Crosby-Ironton High School, Minnetonka High School, Champlin Park High School, Eagan High School and Stillwater High School

“It’s just a great time for all of us to get together, some friendly competition,” said Katrina Tadros, a senior at Minnetonka High School and coach of their unified basketball team.

The event puts students with and those without intellectual disabilities on the same team.

“Amazing,” said Aidan Coughlin, a senior at Minnetonka High School who played in the tournament. “I made three-pointers,” he said.

“It’s awesome, I have known him since third grade and to see him shoot all those three-pointers and to absolutely crush it out there it’s a really fun feeling,” Tadros said.

“This is a competitive event,” said Nick Cedergren, with Special Olympics Minnesota.

Nick Cedergren works with Special Olympics Minnesota’s Unified Champion Schools Program.

“I think that’s one of the stigmas behind disability is that they can’t do things,” Cedergren said.

The idea is to make schools in Minnesota more inclusive for students who may have a disability.

“That’s what sports can provide is the opportunity to achieve a common goal together,” Cedergren said.

While all the players are unified on the court, the goal is to bring this back to the schools and change student culture around acceptance and inclusion.

“All of us are so passionate about bringing it back to our school to make sure that everyone is included regardless of disability,” Tadros said.

Cedergren hopes this can become even bigger.

“Minnesota — we’re one of four states that currently does not have one or an emerging partnership with our state high school league, so the goal of this event is to eventually partner with the high school league to offer Unified sports at that level,” Cedergren said.

In the end, it’s not about the hardware. It’s about having fun and gaining new friendships along the way.

For more information about Unified Sports with Special Olympics Minnesota visit here.