Pack the Gym once again raises the roof

  • Decrease Text Size
  • Increase Text Size
Pack the Gym once again raises the roof
Olympia Unified 'Pack the Gym' eventThe bleachers of Olympia High School’s Chick Rockey Gymnasium were overflowing for the Olympia Unified Sports Pack the Gym basketball game. Excited students, staff and families held up handmade signs as the gymnasium loudly cheered on the participants. The game itself was fast-paced and engaging. The players on both teams were flying up and down the court, encouraging each other throughout. When one team scored, both teams celebrated. The camaraderie was evident and the joy the players exuded was genuine.

Unified Sports is a program that promotes social inclusion through sports and competition. Olympia High School places a large emphasis on inclusion, and Olympia Unified Sports is just one of the many ways the school promotes this. Students from OHS, Tumwater High School and River Ridge High School (Tumwater) attended the event. This is the fifth year that OHS has participated in Unified events, as well as the fourth year hosting this particular event.

“Watching all of the athletes from both teams celebrate in victory whenever someone made a basket was just amazing,” says Junior Ashley Clay. “There’s nothing like seeing them so happy, it just makes you feel so proud and good inside. The Olympia student section and the rest of the entire gym was packed, and I couldn’t have been more happy with how that night turned out! One of my favorite moments was when the Unified Cheer team came out and started their dance routine and then the music got louder and everyone went to go dance on the floor together. It has absolutely been the most exciting Olympia memory I’ve had since I moved back!”

OHS Life Skills Teacher Antonio McClinon says he enjoys how the school and community comes together to celebrate something in common. It is one of the many things he enjoys about the event. “Every year I try to be creative in getting more and more students involved,” says McClinon. Students lend a hand by passing out programs, participating in the halftime show and playing on the teams. Each year McClinon sees more and more students interested in getting involved. This involvement is not only key in events such as Pack the Gym; it’s also integral during the school day. “One of the most important ways to get involved is in the day-to-day stuff; including Life Skills and Resource students in daily interaction,” he says.

Sophomore Grace Clarke adds, “Pack the Gym is such an important event because regardless of the many differences that exist in our community, everyone comes together and supports everyone equally on one night. That’s why I love it so much, because we can find one night to unconditionally love everyone. To see the players faces after they score a basket is the most rewarding feeling in the world, knowing that I helped them achieve something that they might not have achieved without unified sports. I wouldn’t trade my experiences with Oly Unified for anything!”

McClinon adds, “There is always something we can learn from those around us .... For me, this event really gives the community an opportunity to see these students. Perhaps a future employer will be in the audience. When that student goes to apply for a job, they will be recognized. It’s also a chance for teammates to see the world through another person’s eyes--what their perspective is.”

One of the things which McClinon appreciates most about the Pack the Gym event is hearing from the parents of participating students. One parent shared how involvement in the Unified program has helped the student be more open to trying new things, as well as being more confident and outgoing. Pack the Gym also gives students in general education classes the opportunity to encourage and cheer on their teammates.

The OHS Cheer Team and Unified Cheer Team were present at the game cheering on the participants. Every year Pack the Gym is one of those events you just don’t want to miss, but this year may have been the best yet. If you weren’t able to attend this year, we hope you can make it for Pack the Gym 2021!