During the spring of 2012 Maria came across an inspirationalarticle through our local Down Syndrome group . It told the story of a set of triplets in Maryland. At their high school they offered Unified Sports. More specifically the brothers were able to compete together in Unified Bocce Ball during the winter season.
This gave Maria and I’s our first idea of how we could make a difference in our school system. I went through several chains of contacts to find out more information before approaching the administration. I called Frederick High School’s athletic director, then the Special Olympics rep for their area in Maryland. I was then passed to the Special Olympics rep for our area. Next I went to our athletic director with the information I had come across.
He loved the idea. His own son had competed in the Special Olympics so he was very interested in the idea of including Unified Sports in the high school. Our first goal was to pick a sport that would allow for great variances in ability. We decided upon bowling. By using the bumpers and ramps for those that needed them, ever athlete was able to experience success at some level. The biggest problem that we ran into was trying to get partner athletes out for the sport. We tapped into our bowling club here at the high school and they helped tremendously.
The experience was an interesting one in the beginning. We had to help the partner athletes understand that they didn’t need to baby any of our athletes with challenges. The partners weren’t there to “help” in the traditional sense of the word. We wanted them to work together and to become peers. By the end of the season everyone was working well together and you could see the friendships that had formed.
Our most recent sport is Bocce Ball and Cornhole. We began this sport last week and are still hurting for partner athletes. There is a core group of students that want to participate in Unified Sports but they are always in season for other sports. This causes a conflict with schedules. The season has begun well and the students love working together.
My next goal is to expand our program to other local high schools. I would also like to get our high school more recognition in the local media for leading the way with this new program.