Unified Sports® in Schools
Unified Sports® is a registered program of Special Olympics. It is a program that combines approximately equal numbers of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on sports teams for training and competition.
All Unified Sports® players, both athletes and Unified partners, are of similar age and matched by sport skill ability. Unified Sports® teams are placed in competitive divisions based on their skill abilities, ranging from training divisions (focused on skill-learning) to high-level competition.
In 1992, as part of an effort to reach school-aged athletes, Special Olympics Connecticut formed a partnership with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) to bring Special Olympics Unified Sports® to schools across the state.
Special Olympics Unified Sports® school programs administered by CIAC operate throughout the school year and closely follow the academic calendar. Unified Sports® events are organized in each sport season for elementary, middle and high school students. All public and parochial schools in Connecticut are invited to participate.
This inclusive program gives all school-aged children opportunities to participate in organized team sports and build friendships with their peers and help inspire a school environment where inclusion, acceptance and respect are cornerstones.
• 97% of Connecticut's public high schools offer Special Olympics Unified Sports programs
• 81 middle schools and 62 elementary schools currently hold Unified Sports events and tournaments
• 5,865 athletes and Unified Sports® Partners participated in Unified Sports at their schools in 2018.
• Of these, over 1,500 were enrolled in our Young Athletes program, which is Unified Sports® for children ages 3 to 7, which helps participants improve physically, cognitively and socially at the earliest phase of their development.
UNIFIED CHAMPION SCHOOLS
Unified Champion Schools successfully demonstrate a commitment to inclusion by fully adopting three components: the Special Olympics Unified Sports®program, Inclusive Youth Leadership and Whole School Engagement.
Connecticut has more Unified Champion Schools than any other state with a total of 44.
The Pathway: Special Olympics Unified Sports® in Connecticut Schools - Pre-K to Grade 12
Continuation on The Pathway at high school level means a greater emphasis on team participation and interpersonal relationships between partners and athletes.
Benefits of high school Unified Sports® include:
- Positive social interaction between students with intellectual disabilities and those without
- Ties that develop into friendships on and off the playing field
- New friendships, improved self-esteem and positive changes in attitudes, behavior and performance
- Inclusive school communities where the values of tolerance, patience and sensitivity are the cornerstones.
Students in this level of The Pathway begin to transition from individual sport skills and gross motor development to team-based competition.
Athletes and partners participate in:
- Intra-squad scrimmages
- Interscholastic meets
- CAS/CIAC tournaments
Students participate in sports activities that focus on skill and gross motor development. Athletes and partners have opportunities to participate in basketball, soccer, volleyball and track & field events with students from around the state. Schools are encouraged to organize several practice sessions locally and then come together for a regional Unified Sports® event which allows athletes and partners to showcase their sport skills within sport specific stations.
Children in preschool through grade 2 are encouraged to take part in Special Olympics Young AthletesTM program which compliments the gross motor skills already taught in Connecticut's public and private primary grade schools.
The CAS/CIAC Unified Sports® and Special Olympics Connecticut team provide the following:
- A kit of activity supplies
- Assistance and support
- A curriculum guide with DVD
- An end-of-year culminating event
For more information on Special Olympics Unified Sports® School Programs administered by CIAC, click here.
To find out how to start a program at your school, contact:
Robert Hale, Director of Special Olympics Unified Sports®
Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference
To find out about opportunities to continue participation in Special Olympics Unified Sports® following high school graduation, please click here.