“In the Club” is a series that showcases some of the 230+ recognized student organizations at TCNJ. Want to have your club featured? Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for a future story.
Cameron Bogdanoff ’23 is a self-described “sports guy.” Ever since he was young, he’s been a superfan of all of the Philadelphia teams. And he has dreams of being an ESPN broadcaster. But it hasn’t always been easy for him to actually play the games.
“I used to have a hard time in social situations like that,” he says. “And I have some physical disabilities, too.”
At TCNJ, Bogdanoff took the field through Unified Sports, a campus club affiliated with Special Olympics, which joins people with and without disabilities on the same team. The club plays soccer in the fall and basketball in the spring semester.
“Our motto is ‘play unified, live unified,’” says Sofia Del Gaizo ’23, president of the club and a special education major at TCNJ. “It’s the real meaning of being inclusive.”
Players of all levels and abilities are welcome; and students with disabilities are referred to as athletes while those who do not have disabilities are called partners. The club follows a philosophy of no player dominance.
“As partners, we want everyone to have the opportunity to play,” says Del Gaizo, who has played since her freshman year and became the coach for this year’s soccer team. “So sometimes that means we will pass to the athletes so they can be the ones to score.”
Bogdanoff is quick to insist that does not mean the game is toned down. “Everybody plays hard,” he says.
Better yet, everyone is friends, he says. “I never really had friends who didn’t have a disability before. Now I do.”
Del Gaizo concurs: “I made the best friends through Unified, and we are friends on and off the field.”
The TCNJ Unified soccer team just took second place in the Unified Cup, the season’s culminating tournament. They’ll finish up the semester with a 5K race in December. If you’d like to shoot hoops with them next semester, check out their Instagram @tcnjunified. But beware: “Once you join,” says Del Gaizo, “it’s hard to leave.”
— Kara Pothier MAT ’08