While the Newburyport boys and girls soccer teams prepare themselves for the state tournament, there is another Port team ready to do the same. A group of seven athletes are currently preparing themselves to take on the rest of the state in the Special Olympics tournament at the Governor’s Academy, November 4.
“The idea is to have a lot of fun,” says head coach and NHS Independent Development Center instructional assistant Matt Hubbard. “(And) it seems like they are having a lot of fun. We have a little bit of camaraderie out here and get to enjoy each other’s company outside of the classroom setting.”
The Olympians, freshmen Jared Bedard, Amanda Kelleher, Stuart Linenfelser; sophomores David Junkins, Kay Alexander and Eoin Robertson; and senior Natasha Harwood, played in an assessment round at the Pingree School in late September, going 1-1 in the rain.
The team made the state tournament and has been practicing along with three Unified Partners: seniors and varsity soccer co-captains Jordy Steelman and goalkeeper Matt Canning as well as freshman hockey player Meghan Hubbard.
For Steelman, who is in his seventh season as a Unified Partner between soccer and basketball, this year’s tournaments are bittersweet since they will be his last taking to the pitch and the court along with this team.
“It’s taught me so much,” Steelman says of his Unified experience. “Patience, understanding, empathy and to stay positive and work with what you’ve got. They’ve really given me as much as I’ve given them. I’m going to definitely miss it.”
On the other side of the coin is the younger Hubbard, who is in her first year as a Unified Partner. Hubbard has worked with the Olympians before in the classroom, but has gotten a different perspective out on the pitch.