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A look back at our favorite stories of 2015. September: For the love of the game. Unified Sports at THS.

POSTED January 02, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: “For the Love of the Game”.

It’s not just a title of a baseball movie with Kevin Costner, it’s the real life reason students from Torrington High School and Wilby High School got together on Tuesday afternoon for friendly yet competitive soccer matches at the Robert H. Frost Complex at Torrington High School.

Raider Athletic Director Mike McKenna had told me once that it should be a requirement that all parents of students that play high school sports and the students who play the game themselves should come out to a Unified Sports Event.

It will change your perspective on everything. Trust me, it has mine.

The mission of Unified Sports is to have students with special intellectual needs interact and play alongside students who they might not normally if not for the unifying nature of sports.

These young boys and girls played for the love and joy of being involved and if you watched closely, you saw why it works so well.

If somebody scores a goal, regardless of their team, everyone celebrates the accomplishment with a high five or pat on the back. You fell down? Count on any number of your teammates, who become your friends, to pick you up.

Former Torrington head baseball coach, Gerry Carbone was given the challenge by McKenna to put a team together after the Raiders legend had retired from coaching and Carbone, always up for a challenge, took the project and ran with it.

Torrington will host a Naugatuck valley League Tournament on October 15 with nine or ten different programs scheduled to attend.

The teams (Torrington has two) have six dates this fall with trips to Naugatuck, Wolcott, Wilby and Lewis Mills on the docket.

R.J. Poniatoski, a staunch supporter of all the students at Torrington High School, can be seen laughing and smiling as he encourages the teams with positive reinforcement. The guy behind the microphone at Raider games from the press box has been involved from the start.

Nobody keeps score but the kids sure remember when they feel the happiness of a good kick or if the ball finds the back of the net.

Unified Sports has had a huge impact on bullying in high schools or should I say, stopping bullying in high schools.

Who gets picked on in schools? Those who are usually too shy or those lack the confidence to stick up for themselves.

Now, with Unified, those student/athletes can talk and hang out with their partners who in days gone by may have been the last ones to talk to them.

The playing field levels when all the students in a school work together, spreading equality on the fields and in the classrooms.

A few weeks back, I had Torrington baseball standout, Dom Sabia on the LCS Cable 5 Show and the junior power hitter beamed when he talked about how much HE got out of helping the Unified athletes play whatever game they were partaking in that day.

“Now, these kids are coming up to us when they might not have before,” Sabia said, “It gives them confidence that they can be come up and talk to anybody. We give high fives and wish each other luck.”

Raiders boys soccer coach Mike Fritch Jr. had his team sit in the stands, cheering on the teams before they got down to the business of practice on one of the THS back fields.

Those kids saw what I was talking about. Kids playing for the ‘Love of the Game.”

Good job by all those who support this effort.

Want to be part of the joy? Do yourself a favor and head over to Torrington High School on Thursday, October 15 at 3:15 when the Raiders host the NVL meet.

You will not regret it.

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here