Unified Sports® is a registered program of Special Olympics that combines athletes with and without intellectual disability (or other developmental delays) on sports teams for training and competition. All Unified Sports® teammates are of similar age and teams are placed in competitive divisions based on their skill abilities, and range from developmental to recreation al to competitive.
In 1992, as part of an effort to reach school-aged athletes, Connecticut Special Olympics formed a partnership with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference to bring Unified Sports® to Connecticut’s schools. The CIAC/Special Olympics Unified Sports® Program operates throughout the school year and closely follows the school calendar. Unified Sports® events are organized each sport season for middle and high school students (soccer, basketball, volleyball, bowling, track and field) and in culminating events for elementary and young athlete participants. All public and parochial schools in Connecticut are invited to participate. Today 95% of Connecticut’s public high schools offer Unified Sports programs.
In the preschool and kindergarten levels the Young Athlete and Elementary Programs include students with and without disabilities with a focus on gross motor development and social inclusion. At the elementary level, students engage in non-competitive athletic activities designed to develop skills in a variety of sports. These programs end with a culminating activity at the local or regional level.
The CIAC/SOCT Unified Sports model includes a youth leadership component with a focus on inclusion and positive school climate initiatives such as the R-Word Campaigns, Fans in the Stands, and Unified Clubs. Each year the CIAC/SOCT program hosts a Youth Leadership Summit to help schools develop their programs. A major recognition event, the Michael’s Cup Banquet, is held each spring to honor students for their contribution to their school programs.
The cooperative and innovative partnership between CIAC and Special Olympics Connecticut has had and will continue to have a dramatic impact on the number of school age children who have the opportunity to participate in organized team sports through their school. The program currently boasts a participation of more than 9500 athletes and partners, and 287 schools throughout the state.
II. Unified Sports® and its parent-arm, Special Olympics, were created and developed to give individuals with intellectual disability the opportunity to train and compete in sports activities. No person shall, on the grounds of sex, race, religion, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of Special Olympics.
III. Eligibility for participation in Unified Sports® :
a. General Statement of Eligibility. Every person with intellectual disabilities who is at least five years of age is eligible to participate in Unified Sports®.
b. Age Requirements. The minimum age requirement for participation in Unified Sports® is five years of age.
c. Degree of Disability. Participation in Unified Sports® training and competition is open to all persons with intellectual disabilities who meet the age requirement of this Section, regardless of the level or degree of that person’s disability, and whether or not that person also has other mental or physical disabilities, so long as that person registers to participate in Unified Sports® as required by these General Rules.
d. Identifying Persons with Intellectual Disabilities. A person is considered to have intellectual disabilities for purposes of determining his or her eligibility to participate in Unified Sports® if that person satisfies any one of the following requirements:
1) The person has been identified by an agency or professional as having intellectual disabilities as determined by their localities; or
2) The person has a cognitive delay, as determined by standardized measures such as intelligent quotient or “IQ” testing or other measures which are generally accepted within the professional community in that Accredited Program’s nation as being a reliable measurement of the existence of a cognitive delay; or
3) The person has a closely related developmental disability. A “closely related developmental disability” means having functional limitations in both general learning (such as IQ) and in adaptive skills (such as in recreation, work, independent living, self-direction, or self-care). Persons whose functional limitations are based solely on a physical, behavioral, or emotional disability, or a specific learning or sensory disability, are also eligible to participate as Unified athletes or partners.
- Unified Sports Calendar
- Currently Participating Schools/Coaches
- Unified Sports Coaches Handbook
- Elementary School Materials
- Young Athlete Roster Form
- Young Athlete Program Brochure
- Elementary Unified Sports Letter to Parents