On December 19, 2017 Special Olympics PEI hosted the first ever Special Olympics Unified event in PEI. Three Island high schools—Charlottetown Rural, Colonel Gray and Bluefield—supported by strong, collaborative leadership, in both Physical Education and Inclusive Education, participated in this pilot event.
The vision for a Special Olympics Unified Event began following the success of SO Fun Days—inclusive sport fairs hosted by Special Olympics PEI each Fall. We wanted to offer an inclusive competitive opportunity for High School students, targeting the Learn to Train stage of the Long Term Athlete Development model.
Inclusion is a strong value within the Special Olympics movement. We see the benefits of inclusion, and we believed that having Leadership Students involved would strengthen both this event and the culture of inclusion within our Island schools.
We selected bocce as the sport for our pilot event because bocce levels the playing field. Bocce can be played by everyone, and anyone can be really good at the sport. Bocce is also a new sport for most students, meaning that all students were learning the sport and the rules together.
For our pilot event we grouped the 9 teams into three groups at random Each group of 3 teams played a round robin tournament. Games were 20 minutes, or first to 16 points. In the future we would like to move towards a model of skills competitions, qualifiers, and divisioning (as is the practice within the Special Olympics competition model). The event saw 38 students participate - 20 Special Olympics athletes and 18 Unified Partners.
Leadership Students from the 3 high schools played an important roles in this event. Students from Charlottetown Rural, our host school, formed a planning committee, with everything from an official greater to scorekeepers. Students from Bluefield and Colonel Gray took part as officials, scorekeepers and fans in the stands. Additionally, Leadership Students, from all 3 schools took on the role of coaches for their teams. This was a significant undertaking as it meant a commitment to practices and learning the sport rules.
Overall the Special Olympics Unified Bocce event was a huge success. The feedback from the schools, along with the Department of Education, has been overwhelmingly positive. The interactions between the students who participated was genuine. The event was an exemplary showing of sport, inclusion, and school spirt. We are looking forward to the future of Unified Sport in PEI.