What is Unified Sport?
Special Olympics Unified Sport is an inclusive sport program that brings athletes with and without intellectual disabilities together for competition. In Unified Sport programs, there is a comparable number of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on the court/field at the same time. The implementation of a Unified Sport program is meant to create an environment of ‘Meaningful Competition’ wherein champions work together to create a balanced competitive environment. This way athletes can focus on competing to the best of their ability against evenly matched opponents.
What are the components of a Unified Sport Program?
A Special Olympics athlete is an athlete with an intellectual disability; typically, someone who is interested in sport participation, is competitive, and enjoys playing on a team.
A Unified Partner athlete is an athlete without an intellectual disability; typically, someone who is interested in sport participation, is competitive, and enjoys playing on a team.
Meaningful Competition is an important component of Unified Sport. Coaches are responsible for putting players of comparable skill together on a team and on the court in a game so that an evenly matched competition will allow opportunities for every team member to contribute.
What are the benefits of Unified Sport?
A competitive environment, in which athletes from different social backgrounds compete together, has the potential to bridge perceived and real social divides. Some research has noted that Unified Sport partners have shown significant improvements in their attitude toward individuals with disabilities as a result of playing on a Unified Sport team. Other research has cited similar conclusions about Special Olympics athletes having a heightened level of awareness of their peers without disabilities.
The important thing to remember is that, in addition to the universally accepted personal benefits of involvement in sport and competition, Unified Sport provides social benefits for both Special Olympics athletes and Unified Sport partners. Unified Sport offers athletes the opportunity to improve upon their sport-specific skills, gain valuable competition experience, make new friends, and gain a heightened awareness of the social existence of peers facing different obstacles.
All three models, defined below, have social inclusion as the core outcome; however, the structure and function of each model vary.
Division 1 - Competitive
Two things differentiate the competitive Unified Sports model from the other two models:
1. All athletes and partners must have attained the necessary sport-specific skills and tactics to compete without modification and
2. Teams may be eligible for advancement to Regional and World Games.
Division 2 – Competitive (Player Development)
Two things differentiate this Unified Sports model from the other two models:
1. Teammates are not required to be of similar abilities
2. Teammates of higher abilities serve as mentors to assist teammates of lower abilities in developing sport-specific skills and tactics, and in successfully participating in a cooperative team environment.
Division 3 - Recreational
This model does not follow any prescribed training, competition, and/or team composition requirements established by Special Olympics. These recreational opportunities may take place in partnership with schools, sport clubs, and/or the community.
The combination of students working together provides the best opportunity for creating a positive school climate, which ensures EVERY student becomes a part of the social fabric within their schools.
Every student now has the opportunity to become an athlete, unified partner, or student leader while creating a more inclusive environment!
The Unified Sport schedule for Saskatchewan allows for schools to be involved at various levels and to varying degrees. The schedule has three Unified Sports, Bocce, Baggo, and Basketball, run from September through to May. Unified Curling will be promoted through the curling clubs in the fall. “Choose to Include” with a sport that works for your athletes, your programs, and your schools:
Unified Bocce 2018
Two Special Olympics athletes take the court with two Unified Partner athletes to organize, practice and play a 4-week schedule: Sept. 10 to Oct. 3. There are no divisions in Unified Bocce. Schools are responsible for all coaching, equipment, uniforms, and expenses. There is no maximum number of teams that schools can enter. Register your teams with Special Olympics Saskatchewan’s Youth Coordinator, Chris Hamilton, by Wednesday, October 3rd.
Southern Saskatchewan Unified Bocce Tournament - Regina Indoor Soccer Facility, Wednesday, October 10th, 2018, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm.
Northern Saskatchewan Unified Bocce Tournament - Saskatoon SaskTel Sports Centre, Saskatoon, Friday, October 12th, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm.
Unified Baggo 2019
Baggo is bean bag toss. Teams of one Special Olympics athlete and one Unified Partner athlete organize and play a 4-week schedule: Jan. 14 - Feb. 8. There are no divisions in Unified Baggo. Schools are responsible for all coaching, equipment, uniforms, and expenses. There is no maximum number of teams that schools can enter.
Register your teams with Special Olympics Saskatchewan’s Youth Coordinator, Chris Hamilton, by Friday, February 1st.
Southern Saskatchewan Unified Baggo Tournament - Saturday, February 9th, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm., Emerald Ridge Elementary School, 15 Motherwell Drive, White City
Northern Saskatchewan Unified Baggo Tournament - Friday, March 1st, afternoon, Hugh Cairns School Saskatoon
Unified 3 on 3 Basketball 2019
Two Special Olympics athletes take the court with one Unified Partner athlete to compete at either the Competitive or Recreational Level. Teams of 6 organize and play an 8-week schedule: Feb. 25 - May 3, and then compete at the Provincial Championships to be held at Bethlehem Catholic H.S. in Saskatoon on Saturday, May 4th, from 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM. Schools are responsible for all coaching, equipment, uniforms, and expenses. There is no maximum number of teams that schools can enter. Register your teams with Special Olympics Saskatchewan’s Youth Coordinator, Chris Hamilton, by Thursday, April 18th.
Unified Curling 2018/19
Two Special Olympics athletes take to the ice with two Unified Partner athletes to organize, practice and curl. There is no schedule or divisions. This is an opportunity to benefit from Unified Sport while enjoying the sport of curling. Athletes are responsible for all coaching, equipment, uniforms and expenses. Unified Curling can be done traditionally on an ice rink or clubs can purchase floor curl sets to play in a gymnasium. A Special Olympics Saskatchewan Unified Curling Try It Camp will be held on Sunday, January 27th, 2019, at the Calledonian Curling Club in Regina from 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM. Any athlete, team, club, and/or school interested in starting Unified Curling please contact Special Olympics Saskatchewan’s Youth Coordinator, Chris Hamilton, for more information.
For more information on Unified Sport, please visiting our Unified Resources.