HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The mission of Holland Christian’s unified soccer team is inclusion, not necessarily winning, but it turns out the team is good at both.
The team is made up of 14 students: special education students called athletes and general education students referred to as partners.
“We look for partners that are just great with kids, good role models, good students in the classroom and really represent Holland Christian,” coach Ty VanWieren said.
Bonds between the teammates formed quickly.
“We get to hang out together every day at school and outside school, sometimes,” partner Lydia DeBlecourt said.
“It’s the coolest thing to see our team hanging out in the hallways. They eat lunch together. It’s kind of like a big family,” VanWieren said.
That family also turned out to be pretty impressive on the field.
“I think when we qualified for state is when we were kind of like, ‘Oh, we might actually have a shot,'” athlete Sam Kass said.
The competition in the tournament was tough.
“That was scary,” Kass said. “It was fun, but let’s just say it was a close game.”
Very close: The state title came down to a shootout.
But in the end, Holland Christian came away with the win and earned a trip to nationals. The Special Olympics Committee came to school to give them the news in person. The team will head to Florida in June to compete.
“We didn’t need to go to Florida in order to feel like we did something this season, but now that we do (get to go), it’s just like the cherry on top for an amazing season,” DeBlecourt said.
She and Kass are confident they can win.