Now in its second year on campus, Unified Sports works to create a level playing field for athletes and student volunteers alike.
With the help of UW Recreational Sports, this arm of Special Olympics has formed a flag football league that promotes social inclusion of students and community members with intellectual disabilities. The program also highlights strengths rather than differences, something that Ashling Davern witnesses each week.
“If you have a different ability, that doesn’t mean it’s bad or anything: we’re just all on an even playing field.”
The football league features 6 teams of about 10 members. Unified Sports will also host volleyball and basketball leagues to hopefully foster these connections.
“We didn’t know each other last year and then we met each other through Special Olympics, and we’ve bowled together, we’ve done lots of things together in the offseason too.”
Student volunteer Natalie Statz says that the moment everyone steps onto the field, they feel welcome… regardless of who they are.
“You don’t need to be skilled in football or anything it’s really just a supportive environment but — and have fun — yes — and meet other people.”
Mushett may have said it best… for athletes and volunteers alike, it’s all about building meaningful friendships and having a ball.