Play Unified, Live Unified
Team sports are about having fun, promoting fitness and bringing people together. Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams do all of that – and much more. Unified Sports shatter stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities ... in a really fun way!
All Smiles. Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan and a Special Olympics athlete are all smiles during a unity rollerskating event at the World Summer Games in Athens.
Sharing One Language: Sport
Sports is a language that can unite all peoples -- all cultures, all races, all abilities. Unified Sports® are even more interesting -- bringing together people with intellectual disabilities (athletes) and people without intellectual disabilities (partners) on the same teams.
Whether it's soccer (football) or doubles tennis, basketball or bocce, Unified Sports matches are about surprises and lots of fun. The surprises can come when someone has a wrong idea or prejudice about a person with intellectual disabilities. The fun follows close behind.
That's what happened at a Unified Sports match in Lebanon. A few days earlier, a teenager named Dalia says she'd refused to go into a restaurant when she saw students with intellectual disabilities inside. Why? She admits it was "because I was scared." Then her sister talked her into going to a SO Lebanon unity sports event. "When I went to the basketball court, I saw how kind and easy-going everyone was and that everybody was enjoying their time and having fun playing." The next thing Dalia knew, she was having fun too.
She was especially touched hearing two athletes' moms talk about how wonderful it was to see their children accepted and respected. Now, Dalia says, she realizes "we are all the same."
In Sports and In All of Life
Unified Sports is an exciting initiative for athletes of all ages and abilities, from youth to adults. Mixed teams also give people direct opportunities to see the capabilities and courage of Special Olympics athletes.
Timbo Shriver of SO College has taken part in lots of unified matches. He says, "Unity Sports events give spectators a chance to take part and be part of the magic that is Special Olympics. It also makes the games that much more fun!”
Unity Sports veterans agree. Ask Michelle Kwan. She says it's "amazing" seeing what Special Olympics athletes can do -- and playing unified is an ideal way to do it. "It's using sport as a way to bond, as a way to form a team and work together...in sports and in all of life."
Special Olympics Unified Sports are fun for all ages – but can be extra powerful as an educational tool in schools. Special education teachers say the program is a really great way to bring different groups together, promote physical activity and even inspire leadership. One teacher reports seeing more interaction at one unified event -- even between classmates - "than I’ve seen in my classroom all year."
Related Coaching Resources
How to Get Involved in Special Olympics
Special Olympics sports training, coaching and competitions go on in more than 170 countries around the world. You can get involved by getting in touch with the closest Special Olympics office.
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Made Possible by The Annenberg Foundation
The Special Olympics movement is profoundly grateful for the support of the Annenberg Foundation which has underwritten the production of the coaches’ guides and resources, supporting our global goals for coaches’ excellence.
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