Unified Volleyball: A North Kingstown Gem Uncovered

Jessica Albright, Staff Editor

Welcoming one and all, Unified Volleyball presents an opportunity for students at North Kingstown to play a sport they love. Most students and faculty members are aware of the undefeated girls volleyball team at North Kingstown, but they might not recognize the many achievements of the Unified Volleyball team. 

The team was started around a decade ago and has been run by head coach Keith Higgins for the past eight years. He has many years of experience working with students in the special education department and teaching various sports. Partnering with the Special Olympics for over 20 years and teaching Adapted PE for over 15 years at North Kingstown has prepared Coach Higgins for the various aspects of coaching the Unified Volleyball team.   

Over the years, the NK Unified Volleyball team has racked up many accomplishments as they competed. They fought hard and went on to win State Championships in 2013, 2016, 2019, and now in 2021. Winning over five games this season, the NK team came up on top of their division. They have proudly defeated teams such as South Kingstown, East Greenwich, and Chariho, defending North Kingstown’s honor along the way.  

As defined by the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, “Unified Sports is a program that combines approximately equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition.” Coach Higgins said that many friendships made on the team extend off the courts and some last well past graduation. 

The Unified Volleyball team not only serves as an opportunity for anyone and everyone to participate in a physical activity but also provides the time to develop lifelong friendships. “Coaching the Unified Volleyball team is very rewarding,” Higgins said. “It gives a unique opportunity to both partners and athletes to compete in the RIIL.”