St. Bonaventure faculty, students and alumni shared their experience with unified sports at the 79th Annual New York State Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Conference in Verona, N.Y.
The presentation at NYSAHPERD was titled “Unifed Sports: Competitive Sports and Leadership Skills for an Inclusive Future.” Special Olympics Unified Sports is an initiative that brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same team to compete.
Presenters included faculty members Dr. Paula Scraba, associate professor of physical education and Allison Barnes, adjunct instructor of physical education, and physical education majors/Physical Activities Club leadership students Abigail Lagoner, Abbey Marchewka and Kerry McCarthy, along with Nate Johnson, state director of Unified Sports.
This year, St. Bonaventure and Special Olympics New York representatives invited a coaches panel from various schools districts to co-present with them. Jessica Byerwalters from Amsterdam High School and Marc Vitticore from Fairport High School were joined by SBU physical education alumni Colleen Quinn, ’08, who was part of the original organization of Special Olympics sports on campus and Quinlan Shoen, ’15, one of the first student directors of unified sports events at the university.
“Special Olympics Unified Sports is a program that has opened the door to a whole new world for so many students who otherwise may not qualify or be accepted by their peers to participate in a sporting environment,” said Scraba. Training for coaching unified sports is available for free through the National Federation of High Schools.
The coaches panel at the conference illustrated how inclusive sports build community, improve skills for positive social interaction and create acceptance in the sporting arena.
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