It was halftime at the 2020 National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) regional basketball championships, and the Aggies were down. After missing a few shots in the first half, athlete Jaime Everett was kicking himself for not reaching his full potential.
That’s when his teammate Matthew Amézaga ’20 pulled him aside. “Hey, keep your head up,” he encouraged. “Keep shooting. We’re going to come out with a win, and it’s going to be because of you.”
The team returned to the court with renewed determination. As the clock ticked down, the Aggies were still behind by two. Boosted by Amézaga’s encouragement, Everett had the ball and took the shot for a 3-pointer. Everyone held their breath as the ball soared through the air. With a swish, it sailed through the hoop, sealing the regional championship title for Texas A&M University.
The team erupted into celebration. “It was exciting,” Everett recalled. “It brought all of us together.”
“I was so happy he didn’t give up,” Amézaga added. “Letting him know I believed in him and watching him do something like that for the team is one of my favorite memories.”
Though such displays of prowess and camaraderie are essential for any team, they are especially impactful for Texas A&M’s Unified Sports program. A partnership between Special Olympics of Texas and the Department of Recreational Sports, the group consists of athletes with intellectual disabilities like Everett and student partners without intellectual disabilities like Amézaga who find joy, develop empathy and form bonds while playing in unity.
Taking the Field