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Murray Journal

“It’s fun to play with my teammates; I like to play for my school,” said a two-time Murray High unified soccer and basketball student-athlete.

Jun 23, 2021 02:27PM ● By Julie Slama

The Murray High unified soccer squad, which brings athletes and their peers together to play competitive soccer and have fun, gives a cheer before heading out to the field. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Murray High senior Emmie Brinton likes to be with her friends, enjoys school and has fun playing sports with her teammates. This spring, she walked off the field for the last time wearing a Spartan jersey after playing two years on the coed unified soccer team—and getting a hat trick in her last tournament.

“I like to kick and keeping the ball out of the goal,” she said, after playing their final game versus Jordan and receiving a ribbon for their fourth-place finish in the Salt Lake region on their home field.

Earlier this year, Brinton and her teammates brought home the silver medal in unified basketball, but she said she likes soccer better.

“It’s fun to play with my teammates; I like to play for my school,” said the two-time unified basketball player. “It’s fun.”

Her coach, Jessie Agiriga, said the team of five student-athletes and three partners prepared for the tournament by practicing shooting, passing, dribbling and playing defense.

“They did pretty well, some of them remembered their skills and they improved their skills,” she said, adding that there wasn’t a season during spring 2020 as schools were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “They had a lot of fun and appreciate the opportunity to play. We had a lot of support from parents and others cheering for the team and helping out with the tournament.”

Equally as important to getting to participate in the sport is the ability to work together as a team and learn sportsmanship, have a chance to interact with their peers and showing their pride in their school.

“After basketball, I saw them get excited when they saw each other in the halls, and always saying hi,” Agiriga said. 

That is something that Courtnie Worthen, Unified Champion Schools manager who oversees the unified sports program, appreciates.

“We hope this helps to create lasting friendships, where they see each other in the hallways and say hi, eat together at lunch and have fun,” she said. “This helps to build camaraderie. I’d love to host unified dances or see clubs that help build leadership with the students and their peers. I see that bond happening here at Murray as they are hosting the tournament and have their cheerleaders cheering for not just their team, but every team.”

There also were student volunteers who retrieved balls, distributed lunches, kept score and helped set up and clean up.

While those on the field had to follow the safety and health precautions as other high school teams, the tournament was set up regionally to reduce travel and have less teams playing at a site to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, Worthen said.

Before Brinton was to graduate, she and other unified teammates were to be honored during a year-end banquet that was planned to recognize their contributions to their teams and school, Agiriga said. 

Next year, unified soccer in Utah will become a fall sport, allowing year-round unified sports, with basketball in the winter and track in the spring.