The Unified Basketball Team with Athletic Director Charlie Conefrey. Photo submitted by Charlie Conefrey.
The Unified Basketball team is a new sports team at Malden High School for students with disabilities, a branch of the Unified Sports class, which is catered to students in the Pace program. The team was established back in September, with Joseph Taglieri as the coach and, since then, they have played a total of nine games: five regular games and four jamboree games. They have won four games and tied one.
The team was created with the help of Charlie Conefrey, the athletic director at Malden High. Taglieri says although him and Conefrey worked hard in the beginning of the year trying to get the program “up and running,” it was ultimately Conefrey “who got it started” and asked Taglieri to coach. The team was also created through a partnership with the Special Olympics and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).
To Taglieri, coaching the team was “difficult” in the beginning of the season, since various techniques and rules of basketball had to be taught to the students because of their inexperience. Taglieri, along with a few student athlete volunteers, helped teach the members of the team drills and slides. Reflecting on his experience as coach, Taglieri says that the time he has spent with the team has been “very humbling,” adding that the decision to being coaching has been “one of the best things [he] has ever done.”
For a newly formed, first year team, the Unified Basketball team has done “a really good job,” according to Taglieri. He attributes how their success to having a supportive base, including “a very good home crowd” and plenty of “volunteers who came to help.” Taglieri hopes that the program will attract a “couple more student athletes,” since it “looks good on college resumes as far as college teams.” He also anticipates that the program will go “very far.”
Conefrey is currently working on creating a Unified Track team alongside the existing Unified Basketball team. Taglieri explains that both he and Conefrey are trying to “get a lot of Unified sports teams up and running for the kids,” knowing that having such programs would benefit “kids with disabilities and kids that do not have disabilities at all.”
At the end of the day, the beneficiaries truly are the students, but this and future Unified Sports programs are “just good for everybody.”