The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met for their regularly scheduled meeting at the IHSA office in Bloomington on February 18, 2015, where the Board announced that the IHSA and Special Olympics will team up to offer a unified IHSA Bass Fishing tournament this spring.
“We are appreciative of the Special Olympics partnership on this initiative,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “Since the implementation of the IHSA Athletes With Disabilities programs, we have continued to search for more ways to build on our events and offer additional participation opportunities. Special Olympics is already identifying schools with students who plan to participate, so we expect it will be a tremendous event.”
The unified bass fishing tournament will be held in conjunction with the 2015 IHSA Bass Fishing State Finals, which will take place on May 15-16 on Carlyle Lake in Carlyle. The competition will follow a similar format to the State Series, with eight unified boats from all over the state being represented at the state finals. State Final medallions will be awarded to the boats that finish in the Top 3.
“This concept came out of conversations with Dr. Hickman on how we could expand the Special Olympics’ Project Unify,” said Special Olympics Illinois CEO & President Dave Breen. “Project Unify is about building inclusive communities within schools that view individuals as people first. IHSA sports and activities, like bass fishing, provide the opportunity for the school community to get behind these students and build camaraderie. The whole program fits well with the students that the IHSA serves and that Special Olympics serves.”
The IHSA became the first state high school association in the country to offer a bass fishing state final tournament when the State Series debuted in 2009. The IHSA began its Athletes With Disabilities programs during the 2012-13 school and continues to offer opportunities in conjunction with the State Final tournaments in Boys & Girls Bowling, Boys & Girls Swimming & Boys & Girls Track & Field.