By Syed Rahim

In a match in the A Division Finals against Santa Teresa High School, the Piedmont Hills Pirates lost to the Saints in a nail-biting final game. March 23rd’s game marked the 22nd year of the annual event, originally started in 1995.
The district-wide tournament is held every year for Special Ed students. For students enrolled in these programs, the tournament aimed to help students socialize and build their self-esteem. Schools across three divisions were invited to participate and compete in the annual tournament.
“We decided that for our Special Ed kids in the East Side Union High School District, it’s really good to get them all together so that they can learn how to develop socially,” said Adaptive PE teacher Brandon Ward.
Mr. Ward is the original founder of the event, recognizing the need for sporting events that brought students together. Though Special Olympics were once held in place of the tournament, it proved to be more difficult logistically.
“There’re parameters in Special Olympics where the kids have to have a medical (exam), and a lot of our kids never got that done. Well they’re in our district, so if we just do it inside the district, we can include everybody,” explained Mr. Ward.
The A Division champion was Santa Teresa High School, while James Lick High School and Evergreen High School won B and C divisions, respectively.
The event was entirely volunteer-run. Members of the Piedmont Hills Basketball team volunteered to referee the games, and educators from each school’s Special Education staff showed up to support their players.
“Our coach let some of the basketball players help out,” said Point Guard Goose Persin. “It makes me happy to see that they’re happy.”
For the students involved, playing in the game provided a very positive experience. While many played to win, others just played to have fun. Regardless, the gym was filled with rallying cries, and the players left it all on the court.
“We’re just like a family when we play,” said senior Sylvia Tructa, who participated in March’s games.
“We’re just here to have fun and do the best we can to win.” exclaimed sophomore Andrew Fontell.
“It’s more about their self esteem, building their self-esteem, and bringing people together so that they can learn how to work together towards a common goal,” said Mr. Ward. “With the support of other Adaptive P.E. teachers, which are P.E. teachers that work with kids with disabilities whether it be physical or mental, let’s put this together and get all the teachers involved and see what we can do with it.” ♦

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