The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness;, demonstrate courage;, experience joy; and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
Special Olympics is also dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences. One of the more effective vehicles for promoting social inclusion is through Special Olympics Unified Sports®, which joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.
Special Olympics Unified Sports is an inclusive sports program that combines an approximately equal number of Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and Unified partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities) on teams for training and competition. Unified Sports can be held in team sports such as basketball, flag football, soccer, and volleyball and in other sports such as bocce, golf, and tennis. Successful Unified Sports programs include a number of criteria, including meaningful inclusion for athletes and Unified partners, as well as appropriate sport selection.
In partnership with NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, hundreds of colleges are providing Special Olympics Unified Sports intramural leagues on campus. These leagues are inspired by a simple principle: Training, playing, and competing together is a quick path to friendship, understanding, and meaningful inclusion. On these campuses, Unified Sports teams are made up of people of similar age and ability, making games more competitive, exciting, and fun for all. Special Olympics Unified Sports intramural leagues welcome Special Olympics athletes, whether students or from the community, and student Unified partners at any level of skill or experience.
In addition to Unified intramural leagues, athletes and Unified partners also have the opportunity to participate in Unified extramural events at the state, regional, and national levels through Special Olympics or the NIRSA Championship Series.
Learn more about how to get involved with Unified Sports below!