10/20/14 – KHSAA and Special Olympics Announce New Partnership, Unified Sports Opportunities

October 20, 2014 2014-2015 News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 20, 2014

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association and Special Olympics Kentucky announced a new partnership in a press conference at the KHSAA headquarters on Monday, unveiling plans to develop unified sports opportunities in Kentucky for intellectually disabled student-athletes.

For the last four years, the KHSAA has conducted adapted track and field events at its state meet for physically disabled student-athletes. The new venture with Special Olympics Kentucky will allow for the development of unified sports opportunities in all sports, with intellectually disabled students and students without intellectual disabilities competing together in a mutually beneficial, inclusive experience.

“One of the hallmarks since I have been with the Association has been to offer increased participation opportunities for all students,” said KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett. “I am extremely proud that we can focus on another tremendous growth opportunity for participation and help important segments of the student population, both those with intellectual disabilities and their teammates, to experience the invaluable lessons taught through sport and sport-activity. Nothing should be more inclusive than American sport, teammates working together for a common goal, and I believe both groups will learn more from each other than can be taught in any other setting.”

The Special Olympics Unified Sports program combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. Age and ability level matching of Special Olympics athletes and partners, and the Special Olympics athletes/partner ratios are defined on a sport-by-sport basis, in accordance with the Sports Rules.

“This is such an exciting moment for our athletes and our program,” said Trish Mazzoni, President and CEO of Special Olympics Kentucky. “For the first time in our state, our athletes will not only run in the same meets as their classmates who don’t have intellectual disabilities, but as teammates in the same races. We appreciate and applaud Commissioner Tackett and the KHSAA’s vision that Unified Sports can not only build better sports teams and events, but can build better stronger school communities for everyone. We look forward to the 2015 track and field season.”

The increased participation opportunities available through the new partnership will benefit from a commitment by Special Olympics Kentucky to help fund the salaries of coaches participating in the program. For more information on Special Olympics Kentucky, visit www.soky.org.

-KHSAA-

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is the world’s largest program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Participation in competitive events is open to all individuals eight years of age or older. Training and competition in local, area, state, and national programs is offered year-round in Kentucky in 15 sports. In addition to its traditional sports competitions, Special Olympics also offers early childhood programming through the Young Athletes Program and medical screenings though the Healthy Athletes Initiative. Special Olympics Kentucky has been changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in Kentucky for 44 years.

About the Kentucky High School Athletic Association
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association was organized in 1917 and is the agency designated by the Kentucky Department of Education to manage high school athletics in the Commonwealth. The Association is a voluntary nonprofit 501(c)3 organization made up of 277 member schools both public and private. The KHSAA sanctions 43 state championships in 13 sports and 4 sport-activities, licenses and trains over 4,000 officials, provides catastrophic insurance for its more than 70,000 member school student-athletes, as well as overseeing coaching education and sports safety programs.