Students with disabilities get their day to play, but at what cost?
An order from the U.S. Education Department that requires that students with disabilities be given "reasonable modifications" for sports puts athletic directors in a tough position.
While they applaud the order as a landmark moment for students with disabilities, it leaves them wondering, where's the money?
The order says that students with disabilities who want to play for their school could join traditional teams if officials can make "reasonable modifications" to accommodate them. If those adjustments would fundamentally alter a sport or give the student an advantage, the department is directing the school to create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing to traditional programs.
"We want to include as many kids as possible who want to be involved in athletics," said Cody Inglis, Traverse City Central Athletic Director.
Traverse City Central High School junior, Rudy Kelly, has been a shining example for students with disabilities competing in sports for a long time.
Rudy is currently training for her second season on the varsity girls cross country team.
"I have a really strong connection with running," said Rudy. "It's just a passion of mine. And like a hobby. I just love running. Plus, the team is like a family. You have so many friends that it's really nice."
Eric Dompierre, of Ishpeming High School in the Upper Peninsula, has Down syndrome and was integrated into the football team as a place kicker.
Traverse City Central High School's athletic department says it's on board with the idea but funding for extra leagues is a primary concern.
Some cautioned that progress would come in fits and starts initially.
"Is it easy? No," said Brad Hedeick, director of disability services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and himself a hall-of-famer in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. "In most places, you're beginning from an inertial moment. But it is feasible and possible that a meaningful and viable programming can be created."