Battle Ground High School unified soccer team places third at state


The Battle Ground High School unified soccer team placed third at state on May 25, but beyond the score and stats, the team is celebrating the positivity and inclusion unified sports bring.

Head coach Jason Otto is proud of the success that landed the school’s first unified soccer trophy. Beyond the athletic efforts the athletes with disabilities and their partners brought to the field this season, Otto said he is pleased with the program’s growth since he became involved as a coach 12 years ago. Unified soccer at Battle Ground High School includes three teams, each at a different level.

“As far as unified sports goes, I think that, overall, our program has really shown a lot of growth throughout the years. These kids are very energetic each and every day,” Otto said. “They work hard. … The nature of the kids, their energy and our [administration] and staff being behind us, you know, the teachers being behind us, there’s a lot of support here.”

The teams feature the athletes and partners, students without disabilities who pair up with the athletes and assist them with the game. After this season, some of the partners will be graduating high school, which leaves a gap to fill for next year. Otto encourages students to join the program for next year.

“I think the biggest thing is to just be involved with these kids. These kids are part of our everyday lives, and I work in special education so I think it’s just getting out there and having fun with them,” Otto said, adding the experience not only brings joy but adds life skills and a great resume addition.

Otto has been working in special education for 24 years, and he said every day he enjoys seeing the kids have fun, laugh and just have a good time.

“I think what’s rewarding to me as a coach is to go out there and just see the smiles on their face and the nature that they’re having fun,” Otto said.