Impact of inclusion

How Unified sports are providing new opportunities for students

Unified Sports are about more than just the activity itself; the Special Olympics mission statement states, “Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.” During the winter season the school offers basketball to Unified athletes. Unified has become an opportunity for students of all abilities and experience levels to participate in the sports offered, including soccer and basketball. 

Dr. Ryan Jordan has been working as a full time substitute at the school and has been helping out with Unified this past fall by assistant coaching basketball.

“Unified provides an outlet for students who wouldn’t normally be part of, varsity and junior varsity teams,” Jordan said. “It’s a way to compete against each other and to have these normal student experiences.”

Jordan has been a part of the Unified sports program during his time at the school. Prior to that he grew up in Oklahoma where he performed similar volunteering. 

“My dad was a professor of therapeutic recreation at Oklahoma State University so he was really involved in the Special Olympics and everything,” Jordan said. “I’ve grown up my whole life volunteering and working in that capacity. I just wanted to be a part of that {Unified}. It just seemed a natural thing to be a part of.”

Therapeutic recreation is when you use the skill sets people have to be the most effective. It is unlike rehabilitation because with rehabilitation you are trying to have the restore. Unified is an opportunity for students to get to be a part of a team and a community. 

“Therapeutic recreation is different from rehabilitation,” Jordan said. “Imagine someone who has a broken leg, rehabilitation is working with the broken leg to try to heal it. Whereas therapeutic recreation, helps people use their other leg to be as effective as possible. It’s like, the Unified team we’re using the skill sets people have, to be as effective as possible.”

The nationally recognized Unified sports program gives all students the opportunity to participate in different types of sports. 

“We have Unified athletes and partner athletes,” Jordan said. “The Unified athletes are ones who you know, the students who need special support and whatnot. Partner athletes can be anybody, right, if you want to join, then talk to the coaches involved.” 

The community can come to Unified games to cheer on the athletics.

“People should come to games because they’re really fun. It’s sports at its purest,” Jordan said.