Special Olympics Maryland’s Unified Sports® and Unified Partner Competitions provide a means to bring together athletes with and without disabilities in a fulfilling and fun inclusion experience. Unified Sports® teams are composed of a proportional number of athletes with intellectual and other types of disabilities, and athletes without disabilities who train and compete together on the same team.
We asked students who competed in this falls Interscholastic Unified Sports Tennis program to share their thoughts. Below is what we received.
Joey Gibson (Unified Tennis)
I am a part of the Southern High School Unified Sports Program. This is my second year in the program and I am going to describe the impact it has on me. To me, the unified sports program means a lot not just for the fun of it, but personally as well. Ever since I joined the unified sports program my sophomore year, it has changed my life so much, words cannot describe it! I have met so many new people and formed special relationships with them I will never forget! What Unified Sports has really impacted me on is my one of a kind partner Dustin. He is one of those partners that puts a smile on your face, whether you are having a good day, or a bad day too! Dustin is so eager to help the other athletes and partners, by cheering you or the other teammates on during a match, or just to lend a hand and help them too. I am truly proud to call him not only my partner, but my best friend! Also, what has impacted me in Unified Sports, is the tremendous staff that works day and night to make Unified Sports possible to make Unified Tennis, Bowling, and Bocce Ball happen and I cannot thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful organization! The impact on Unified Sports of how I compete is truly unique. The three sports are at a slower pace, and you can take the time you need to complete something, whereas in a regular sport, you may have a limited amount of time to do a task, and that is why competing in Unified Sports is so much fun! I also always tell people to try unified sports because it is so different from your average sport. It is about building friendships and being able to touch your partner’s life by working with them, letting them know you care and putting a smile on their face is one of the greatest joys in life. That is what Unified Sports has impacted on my life.
Nolan Krautman (Unified Tennis)
Students joining unified teams are often surprised to discover how much they enjoy being a part of this amazing group. I am grateful to have gotten to know athletes/students that I do not usually see throughout my school day. There is an assortment of personalities, just as there are on other teams, ranging from the singers, the jokers, the quiet and the competitive. I admire these athletes, many who despite physical and mental challenges, put their all into each and every match. The team cheers for each other much in the same way we cheer on our football team. Being on a unified team has made me appreciate the small size of Southern’s student population. It gives us the advantage of knowing all our classmates and although we do have “cliques” we all get along and support one another. This is a big part of why Southern has been so successful with our unified teams. We truly believe in “all for one and one for all”. Every member of Southern High School is valued. Joining unified tennis has been one of my best experiences in high school.