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Red Shirt Rookies teaches us all a few things

students pose for photo in gym

Team photo from Red Shirt Rookies at the Timber Trail Elementary basketball camp.

Sports can be a great connector. It is through learning games and playing with others that we often learn things about ourselves. Just ask Jennifer Di Capo, who is a coach and personalized learning specialist at Timber Trail Elementary (TTE).

Jen oversees the Red Shirt Rookies (RSR) program at TTE. The elementary school program is part of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY. After taking a hiatus during the pandemic, the rookies are back this year. It is an athletic program that includes every kid at the school.

Jen said, “Rarely are there after school programs that are inclusive for all students regardless of ability. And with our team, students are celebrated for those differences. We pair students with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities with peer coaches to learn how to help them develop as athletes.”

Peer coach and TTE fifth grader Luana Moreira said, “We just get to bond with the kids because they are really great.” She added that the best part is making new friends.

The day we caught up with the RSR, it was all about shooting hoops, dribbling and, most importantly, having fun as they worked on their basketball skills. And who better to teach them some moves on this Tuesday, than the varsity basketball team from Rock Canyon High School (RCHS).

Jen said, “RSR is one of the few opportunities our athletes get to take part in something where they are the focus. Everyone belongs. The encouragement and excitement heard in the gym is contagious. Our athletes and peer coaches already have such strong bonds after only a few short practices.”

We even discovered a brother-sister team in action – Castle Pines residents Owen and Grace Creeden. Owen is a senior at RCHS and Grace is in fourth grade at TTE. The siblings took on soccer this past fall, and after basketball, they will tackle flag football.

Jen concluded, “It is great to see the interactions both here in the group, on the playground, in the cafeteria and in classes. These kids are developing true friendships.”

Owen and Grace Creeden shared a moment during basketball camp at TTE with the RSR program, part of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY.


Class peer coach Luana Moreira with one of her RSR teammates. RSR is an athletic program that includes everyone at TTE.

By Karen Leigh; photos courtesy of Jennifer Di Capo



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