22 March, 2023
The dim lights of the bowling alley. The bumpers being clicked into place. The pins crashing down from a strike that just took place, are all usual sights for Atholton’s Allied bowling team as they arrive for their bi-weekly games.
“I feel like Allied [Sports] gives a chance for everyone to have an opportunity to have fun and hangout,” said Emma Cho, a senior who has been paired with an Atholton student with disabilities since she was a freshman, but only joined the Allied program this past year.
Among Atholton’s three sport seasons and the numerous sports that are offered within each season, lies Atholton’s Allied Sports program. Offered by all Howard County high schools, Allied sports is a program where students with and without disabilities play together on a sports team. Here at Atholton, Allied is run throughout the whole school year with soccer in the fall, bowling in the winter, and softball in the spring.
Ms. Weinberg, Atholton’s attendance secretary, is also the coach of Atholton’s Allied Sports program. She has been the head coach for the past two years, but has assisted for the past four years. She “became involved with Allied because I wanted to be part of the student community,” she added, “they are some of my former students from elementary [school], so it’s neat to still interact with them.” Coaching Allied Sports enables her to keep the bond she has had with her students since they were much younger.
Coach Weinberg leads allies throughout each sport season: fall, winter, and spring. This allows for students with other commitments to still participate as a student helper or player in Allied during their available season. Junior Angie Smitson wanted to participate in Allied because, “it would be fun to play during the fall and winter and my brother really enjoyed participating when he went to Atholton.” Smitson, who is not available in the Spring for Allied softball, can still assist during Allied soccer and bowling. Additionally Cho, who has a prior commitment in the fall, can still be a helper with Allied bowling in the winter.
The Allied team is composed of players, those with disabilities, and student helpers. During Allied bowling, student helper Cho helps “the students who can’t walk up on their own or throw the ball on their own.” She also will, “cheer them on from the sides and provide company and fun competition.” Julia Ballou, who has been a part of Allied since her freshman year, continued by saying she “guides the students and helps run the practices.” The student helpers assist with the players, yet double as a companion throughout the school year.
Ballou first got involved when she was a freshman because, “originally Mr. Stuppy was the advisor for it and I would always see him around school, so I joined through that.” Though he is not the sponsor anymore, she has continued to be a student helper, and will be graduating this spring. Aside from when Allied was not offered due to the COVID shutdown, Ballou has participated in all three Allied seasons each year it has taken place. Since she has been a committed student helper for a few years now, her bond and friendship with the players is lasting.
Junior Andrew Kim, an Allied player, has been on the team since last year. His favorite part is “hanging out with friends” during practices and games. “Last year I did soccer, and this year I did Allied soccer and Allied bowling,” Kim said. After he enjoyed soccer very much last year, he decided to participate in bowling this year.
Allied does a phenomenal job at creating friendships between Atholton students with and without disabilities. Ballou said that this program has allowed her, “to venture out and make a lot of new friends.”
Smitson agreed that Allied allows her to spend “time with people from my school” who she wouldn’t typically get to interact with, due to the differences in their daily schedules.
When asked what is most rewarding for Coach Weinberg she shared, “the teamwork and seeing everybody; the friendships that start forming. I love just seeing everyone happy and in a big group together.”