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Overview  

Take the FREE NFHS Unified Sports Online Training

Special Olympics Unified Sports® is an inclusive sports program that combines an approximately equal number of Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities) on teams for training and competition. Three models exist within Unified Sports: competitive Unified Sports, Unified Sports Player Development and Unified Sports Recreation. All three models provide different types of experiences in team sports such as basketball, soccer and volleyball and in other sports such as bocce, golf and tennis. Unified Sports is now offered throughout the world and has been a Special Olympics internationally sanctioned program since 1989.

Special Olympics Unified Sports promotes social inclusion through shared sport training and competition experiences for individuals with and without intellectual disabilities. Unified Sports has proven to be highly effective in achieving social inclusion. Athletes feel a sense of belonging; they can meaningfully interact with others, develop mutually rewarding relationships, are recognized as contributors and are received with acceptance and respect.

Research studies by Siperstein (2010) and Ozer (2011) have confirmed the positive social impact of Unified Sports on individuals with and without intellectual disabilities as well as their communities. Unified Sports is effective in decreasing the problem behaviors of individuals with intellectual disabilities and improving attitudes of individuals without disabilities toward participants with disabilities. Unified Sports helps increase the skills necessary for individuals with intellectual disabilities to be accepted and fulfilled socially (developing meaningful relationships, being accepted and respected and being better prepared for community living).  

Team sports are about having fun, promoting physical health and bringing people together.  Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams do all of that – and shatter stereotypes about intellectual disabilities in the process.

Unified Sports Resources