Add On a cold winter afternoon in Lexington, a high school basketball team is warming up in their newly-donated blue and white reversible jerseys. This is not your typical basketball team, and certainly not your typical high school sporting event.
There is no school band or student section full of rabid fans. There are no cheerleaders. Fans don’t have to pay admission to take in the action. This game is purely about healthy competition, sportsmanship, and most importantly, fun. The
Lexington, Arlington, Bedford, Burlington, Belmont (LABBB) Program basketball squad is comprised of 14 special needs students, both male and female, who compete in the Greater Boston Basketball League and play one game every week against other special needs programs.
The LABBB program has a presence in each of the towns’ high schools, and has been providing a positive and safe learning environment for kids with special needs for more than 30 years. The collaborative program was initially founded in 1972 as a response to the growing need for more specialized programs. It has flourished since, and currently provides educational programs and services for over 350 special needs students with a variety of special needs.
LABBB Adaptive Physical Education teacher Tom Brincklow started the basketball team six years ago. Brincklow, who has been with the LABBB program for 19 years, is a former standout basketball player at Lexington High School who went on to play at Westfield State and was recently named to Westfield’s athletic hall of fame.
After moving on from playing the game, Tom has continued to stay involved as a coach. He spent some time as an assistant coach for the Lexington High School boys’ varsity team, and currently serves as an assistant coach for the Cambridge Ringe and Latin boys’ varsity team.
“The kids really love it, it’s a good way for them to get that feeling of being part of a team that they probably wouldn’t get under different circumstances,” said Brincklow. “They just have a lot of fun with the team, they get to get out of class on game days, which they love, and we do a lot of team activities and outings as well, so it really gives them that chance to bond like most athletic teams do, which I love.”
The team is made up of kids from all of the LABBB programs, from Lexington High School to Belmont High School, and is comprised of kids with varying levels of disabilities. The program offers the unique opportunity for these kids to compete against other kids with similar situations, something that they normally would not get in a regular high school setting, Brincklow said.
It gives them a sense of status, being able to tell their classmates that they are a part of the basketball team. It’s inspiring, from an outsiders’ perspective, to see these kids set aside their disabilities and get out there and represent their school, brimming with pride, he said. ”
You know, they get to tell their friends that they’re a part of the team, which just makes them feel really good about themselves,” said Brincklow. “Like I said, the biggest thing that they get out of this is that they get to be a part of the team, which they really love. We try to make it a fun experience for them always, and it’s nice that they are learning to work together, and learning good sportsmanship. It’s just been a real joy for me to be a part of it all, and to see them get so much out of it is just fantastic.”
The team includes a number of kids from our local communities. Nick Boivia and Dan Bustamante are Bedford residents. Luke Moscatel and Nick Nole represent Lexington on the team. Zack McLeon hails from Belmont. Nick Papppas lives in Arlington. And the team’s leading scorer, Steve Castellerin, is a native of Burlington. Together, though, they all proudly represent LABBB.
Every week, usually in front of a small crowd that consists of teachers and classmates, the LABBB basketball team takes to the Lexington High School fieldhouse court to take part in a competition. Win or lose, the coaches are always happy with the effort that their kids put forth.
However, like any high school aged kid, the members of the team are always striving to come out with a win. Starting point guard Nick Cedano (Framingham) said it best when he explained to me his motivations for playing. “I’m competitive so, I like to win,” he said. The LABBB team plays every Thursday afternoon, usually at home in the Lexington fieldhouse. Interested in a follow-up to this article?
By Mike Manfredi