Eugene Field Elementary fourth grader, Beckett Kendrick, wanted to give his classmate, Emmet, the opportunity to compete as a Special Olympics (SO) athlete in basketball.

Beckett, son of Tiffany and Matt Kendrick, Maryville, has volunteered to be a unified player with the under-12 3-on-3 basketball team.

“I think they should get to play other sports that others can play,” Beckett said. “They’re a little different but they are in this world and can play all sports.”

A unified player is teamed with two SO athletes at a time to be on the court. The under-12 team consists of four SO athletes and one unified player. Coach Shirley Heideman rotates the four SO athletes in and out of play. The unified player is not allowed to make over 60 percent of the points.

Practice started in November and is once a week. Beckett rebounds and passes the ball to give the SO athletes another chance to shoot.

“Beckett helps them know where to be and encourages them to keep going,” Heideman said. “He’s a coach out on the court. He teaches by showing and works with them on dribbling and other skills. They look up to him, the unified player, for the sportsmanship, rules and skills of the game.”

The team had planned to take part in the area SO tournament on January 13, but due to weather and safety concerns, the tournament was cancelled and will not be made up. The 27 teams will be automatically entered into the regional SO basketball tournament to be played Saturday, February 1 in St. Joseph.

Anyone interested in volunteering as an unified player, coach or volunteer is encouraged to contact Heideman at 660.652.3916 or