Goshen’s newest athletics team unifies students, community

Photo of high school students in basketball uniforms touching fists
Coach Eric Harris rallies his players during the Goshen Unified Basketball team’s first home game against Warwick on April 9.

There’s a new basketball team at Goshen High School, created with a specific purpose in mind: to unite students of all abilities over the love of the game.

The Goshen Unified Basketball team faced off against Warwick on their home court this past Tuesday, under the direction of Coach Eric Harris. The team combines students with and without intellectual disabilities to compete against unified teams from other local districts, including Middletown, Monroe-Woodbury, Newburgh, Warwick and Valley Central.

Unified basketball is a program offered through a partnership between the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and Special Olympics New York, and is recognized by Section IX.

“In only a short time, unified basketball has positively impacted our community in a number of ways,” said Harris, who also coaches girls varsity basketball and teaches English at Goshen High School. “It builds empathy and tolerance while being competitive and fun.”

The idea to create a unified team at Goshen belongs to Erin Smith, a Goshen High School junior and first-team Section IX basketball selection.

“In October, Erin walked into my office and said, ‘coach, we need to start a Unified Basketball program’. From that moment, along with Coach Harris, she took the lead and made it happen,” said Athletic Director Matt O’Brien.

“It’s amazing to see an exceptional student-athlete who is passionate about creating an environment of inclusivity and camaraderie for her special needs classmates,” said O’Brien. “Erin is a remarkable young woman and we’re excited to have helped her launch this opportunity for our students.”

According to O’Brien, watching the team practice after school warms the heart. So, too, does watching the players receive high-fives and praise from their peers as they move through the hallways during the school day.

“They can’t wait to play, and they can’t wait to have a packed gym full of people to watch them play. The whole school is talking about them,” said Erin. “I am so proud and honored to be a part of this team.”

“I’m excited about our next game,” said team member Ryan Galinus. “I think am going to be Michael Jordan this time.”

Let’s cheer them on!

The Goshen Unified Basketball team will play Middletown at 4 p.m. April 24 at Goshen High School.

High school students in basketball uniforms.
The members of the Goshen Unified Basketball team.