Unified Sports® is a program that combines approximately equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (called Partners) on sports teams for training and competition. Age and ability matching of athletes and Partners is defined on a sport-by-sport basis.
Throughout the year, in a variety of sports ranging from bocce ball to soccer to volleyball, Unified Sports® athletes improve their physical fitness, sharpen their skills, challenge the competition and have fun, too.
The concept of combining athletes with intellectual disablities and those without was first introduced by Special Olympics in the mid-1980s to provide another level of challenge for higher ability athletes and to promote equality and inclusion. Today, the initiative includes virtually all sports.
Unified Sports® enables athletes to:
- Learn new sports, develop higher-level sports skills and have new competition experiences
- Experience a sense of meaningful inclusion, as each athlete is ensured of playing a valued role on the team
- Socialize with peers and form friendships (the initiative provides a forum for positive social interaction between teammates and often leads to long-lasting friendships)
- Participate in their communities and have choices outside of : Unified Sports® programs often are initiated by community partners, including Parks and Recreation Departments, schools, and community sports organizations. These partnerships help further include athletes in their community.
If you are interested in participating in the Unified Sports® program, please contact the SOND program office or an area director.