Unified Sports® involve people with and without intellectual disabilities, and they promote inclusion in sports and everyday life.
What are Unified Sports®?
Special Olympics Unified Sports® brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to train and compete on the same team. Throughout the year, Unified Partners participate in a variety of sports to improve physical fitness, sharpen skills, challenge the competition and have fun!
Special Olympics adopted Unified Sports® in 1989 to expand sports opportunities for athletes seeking new challenges while dramatically increasing their inclusion in the community. Today, the initiative includes almost all Special Olympics Texas sports. Unified Sports® competitions are an important part of Special Olympics World Games, as well as, local, state and National Games.
Unified Sports® Enables Athletes to:
- Learn new sports.
- Develop higher level sports skills.
- Have new competition experiences.
- Experience meaningful inclusion as each athlete is ensured a valued role on the team.
- Socialize with peers and form friendships as the program provides a forum for positive social interaction between teammates.
- Participate in their communities. More than 3,000 athletes and partners currently participate in Unified Sports® programs in Texas in cooperation with schools, civic associations, Parks and Recreation departments, and other community sports organizations. These partnerships help further include athletes in their community.
Unified Sports® are Available in the Following Sports:
- Flag Football
- Figure Skating
- Roller Skating
- Table Tennis
Criteria for Success
- An appropriate sport is selected - A sport is chosen based on factors such as availability of qualified coaches, ability levels of potential athletes and partners, finances, facilities and opportunities for competition.
- Qualified coaches lead the program - Unified Sports® teams should be organized under the guidance of a trained coach who understands the principles of Unified Sports® and the rules, techniques, strategies and training regimens of the selected sport.
- A Unifed Sports® Model is chosen-
- Unified Recreation - consists of recreational sport-related enrichment opportunities to promote social inclusion and increase sports skills and knowledge. Level: Athlete in Training
- Unified Sports Player Development - refers to the local level where players of higher ability assist teammates to develop sports skills and tactics to successfully participate on a team. Level: local competition only
- Unified Sports® - is a program that combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (Partners) on sports teams for training and competition. All players on a Unified Sports® team must have attained the requisite sports skills and play without modification. Levels: local, area, state, national and world competitions
- Quality training leads to competition - All members of a Unified Sports® team shall have a minimum of eight weeks of training (practice, scrimmages and league competition) before any Special Olympics Texas competition. This applies to Unified Sports® Player Development and Unified Sports® models. All competitions should be conducted according to Official Special Olympics Texas Sports Rules, including placement of Unified Sports® teams in appropriate age and ability divisions.