a path to friendship and understanding
It’s co-ed, multi-age, and all-ability—it’s John Jay High School’s Unified Basketball team!
John Jay High School is now one of the 4,500+ elementary, middle and high schools in the United States that is participating in Unified Sports. The concept joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.
It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.
John Jay Joins the Unified Sports Movement
"one of my most fulfilling experiences in athletics, ever"
Christian McCarthy, athletic director for John Jay, found out about Unified Basketball through the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. He and the athletic directors from Hendrick Hudson and Pelham made the commitment to bring the Unified Basketball program to their districts.
The school kicked off its Unified Basketball team in spring 2019 with sixteen players and a six-game season against teams including Hendrick Hudson, Pelham, and Fox Lane. It’s coached by Assistant Principal Kim Piccolino, a former shooting guard for Dominican College, and Kiri Ryan, high school social worker.
“Unified Basketball gives students of all abilities a chance to participate on a team, to make new friends, to be recognized as athletes, and to receive recognition from their peers and staff,” said Ryan.
“Our practices and our games are full of excitement, kindness, and genuine joy,” said Piccolino.
“The games have been an incredible opportunity for the students who do not often get a chance to represent their school in athletic competition and a powerful leadership experience for the student partners,” said McCarthy. “I have been an athletic director for the past sixteen years and have watched thousands of competitions. Attending the Unified Basketball games has been one of my most fulfilling experiences in athletics, ever!”
The senior captains are part of the unbeatable energy of the team
“Ms. Piccolino came to me in December and asked if I wanted to start the team with her,” said Amelia Durso, a senior. “I said, ‘of course!’” The two reached out to Christine Caserto, the life skills teacher, who contacted her students. Senior Rosie Ceisler came on board as co-captain.
Both captains intend to study Special Education in the fall—Amelia at Franklin Pierce University and Rosie at University of Vermont.
“From our first practice till now the team has blossomed,” said Rosie. “They all love being around each other. It’s really special because the students are all in different classes and now they interact with each other. It’s really cool.”