Sports Organizations will cooperate on High School Unified Sports Opportunities
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association and Special Olympics Kentucky announced a new partnership in a press conference at the KHSAA headquarters on Monday, Oct. 20, unveiling plans to develop Unified Sports opportunities in Kentucky for student-athletes with intellectual disabilities.
For the last four years, the KHSAA has conducted adapted track and field events at its state meet for physically disabled student-athletes. The new venture with Special Olympics Kentucky will allow for the development of unified sports opportunities in all sports, with intellectually disabled students and students without intellectual disabilities competing together in a mutually beneficial, inclusive experience.
“One of the hallmarks since I have been with the Association has been to offer increased participation opportunities for all students,” said KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett. “I am extremely proud that we can focus on another tremendous growth opportunity for participation and help important segments of the student population, both those with intellectual disabilities and their teammates, to experience the invaluable lessons taught through sport and sport-activity. Nothing should be more inclusive than American sport, teammates working together for a common goal, and I believe both groups will learn more from each other than can be taught in any other setting.”
The Special Olympics Unified Sports program combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. Age and ability level matching of Special Olympics athletes and partners, and the Special Olympics athletes/partner ratios are defined on a sport-by-sport basis, in accordance with the Sports Rules.
“This is such an exciting moment for our athletes and our program,” said Trish Mazzoni, President and CEO of Special Olympics Kentucky. “For the first time in our state, our athletes will not only run in the same meets as their classmates who don’t have intellectual disabilities, but as teammates in the same races. We appreciate and applaud Commissioner Tackett and the KHSAA’s vision that Unified Sports can not only build better sports teams and events, but can build better stronger school communities for everyone. We look forward to the 2015 track and field season.”
The increased participation opportunities available through the new partnership will benefit from a commitment by Special Olympics Kentucky to help fund the salaries of coaches participating in the program. For more information on Special Olympics Kentucky, visit www.soky.org.