Unified Flag Football


Alessia Passoni, Writer

There are many ways to get involved at Homestead High School through sports, clubs and associations, which include Unified Flag Football. In this sport, athletes and partners work together to play football as well as make powerful friendships and accomplishments. Both the athletes and the player can learn a lot from each other. Not only do they get the opportunity to play a sport they love, but they get to do it with supportive friends and teammates by their side. Students get to feel involved and be a part of something bigger than just a sport. They get to learn and grow as individuals.

Lots of hard work is necessary for their season. Practices consist of conditioning, drills and reviewing plays. Practices are about an hour long each night and require lots of effort.Working on the fundamentals of the game not only gets them ready mentally but physically too.

They face many teams in their regular season. Carroll High School  is Homestead’s top competitor this year. With lots of teamwork and consistency, the Homestead team hopes to win against them.
The game functions as a five-on-five game with a mix of students with disabilities and without disabilities. It functions just as a normal game of flag football would, except for rules to make sure people of all abilities are included. It is highly competitive and fast paced with many amazing moments along the way.

Unified Flag Football became a part of the Champions Together program in 2018. The first Unified Flag Football track and field event started in 2013 and continues to grow. Homestead has adopted the Unified programs for about 4 years now and the partnership continues to expand.\

Derek Nichols, coach and mentor of this program, has many goals for this season. He explains how he got involved with this program: “I came to Homestead as a new teacher four years ago and Homestead was trying to start the first Unified Football program at the school. I was approached by the athletic director at the time, and I saw it as an opportunity to meet more students and get involved in athletics.”

Additionally, Nichols mentions,“We strive to build relationships that last longer than the two-month season. The combination of students with disabilities and students without disabilities does not always happen naturally. Both can really learn a lot from each other and we try to foster these relationships while playing a competitive sport. Truly, we want our students without disabilities to realize that they are a part of something larger than themselves and that friendships can look differently than what they are used to.”

Sophomore Mia Welker loves playing Unified Football, as she gets to be with Taylor Ruggles (11) and all her teammates and score touchdowns. Welker plays all the Unified Sports. Her favorite thing about Unified Football is being able to “run the play called Homestead where [she] get[s] to take the ball and score a touchdown”. Additionally, she said, “I loves being with Taylor.” Her favorite memory by far is “when [she] scored a touchdown!

Ruggles has done Unified Sports for two years now. She met Welker during Unified Track. She gets to be Welker’s partner and encourages her along the way. Ruggles’ favorite aspect of Unified Flag football is “getting to see Mia everyday.” She has built a wonderful relationship with Welker as the two of the have gotten closer. This sport has not only allowed for them to win games and enhance their capabilities in football, but has developed a wonderful friendship that will last forever.