With the new year upon us, it’s time to look back on a few of the successful partnerships between our member state associations and Special Olympics from the exciting fall season. It was a season full of continuing traditions as multiple state associations showed growth as they expanded upon inaugural seasons in year two.
Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association partnered with Special Olympics Massachusetts to host Unified Basketball Jamborees across the state and saw extreme growth in year two of the event. This year’s event had 22 MIAA member schools participate resulting in the expansion of the jamborees to four regional locations. Tewksbury Memorial High School, Dartmouth High School, Algonquin Regional High School, and Franklin High School played host and saw over 350 student-athletes and partners participate.
MIAA Associate Director Peter Smith stated, “Special Olympics Unified Sports have a very positive impact on both the participants and the school community. Through Unified Sports programs, participants improve fitness and skills while learning important lessons about teamwork, respect, acceptance and inclusion. These inclusive sports and activities opportunities also have a meaningful impact on the school culture and community. Teammates, coaches, opponents, officials and spectators all contribute greatly to a positive environment that demonstrates what educational athletics is all about.”
Nebraska School Activities Association
On December 4th, eight teams came together at Sun Valley Lanes to compete for the second Unified Sports Bowling State Championship. Alliance came out victorious defeating Lincoln High in the final 3-1 for the program’s first state title.
To add to the excitement of a state championship tournament, this year’s event was broadcasted live during the Championship game. Assistant Director of the Nebraska School Activities Association, Dan Masters stated, “I think having some coverage of the Championship on live TV was a great opportunity to display the talents of the students that were competing as well as the great team culture these teams had. It was a great opportunity and addition to the Championship.”
In the second year of Unified Bowling, the NSAA, in partnership with the Special Olympics Nebraska, saw a participation increase from 42 schools to 54 schools. Adding Unified Sports, Masters says, “has positively impacted school culture and climate within those schools. We’ve had a number of AD’s comment that this is the best thing our association has done in recent times.”
(Callam Sports Photography)
Delaware Interscholastic Athletics Association
For the second straight year, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletics Association, in collaboration with Special Olympics, held the Unified Flag Football Championship at Delaware Stadium. Facing off between the Division I & II Championship games, Newark Charter successfully defended their title defeating Smyrna in the championship game.
This year’s tournament held four rounds of playoffs composed of 12 teams up from eight teams the year before. Executive Director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, Thomas Neubauer, reported that several more schools have indicated interest as well.
Coming on the heels of another successful Unified Flag Football season, the DIAA is piloting Unified Basketball this season. “We announced that we needed four schools to pilot basketball this year and we immediately had eight respond,” Neubauer stated. “Unified events have become events the whole school gets involved with.”
(Sheri Okladek Bailey)
Congratulations to all the Unified athletes and partners, coaches, schools, communities and sponsoring organizations on another successful fall season. As we move to the winter season, good luck to all the teams competing, learning, and making irreplaceable memories.