Serving Kentucky's Schools and Student Athletes Since 1917

12/12/16 – Unified Bowling FAQs (2017 Season)

December 12, 2016 Bowling Blog Updates



A common question from students “Can I play too?”  YES, you can!

As the KHSAA partnership with Special Olympics of Kentucky continues to expand, along with the growth of Unified Sports, please refer to this blog for updates and responses to frequently asked questions to guide you throughout the year. If you have an immediate question, please contact Assistant Commissioner Sarah Bridenbaugh ( at the KHSAA offices.

What is Unified Sport?

  • Unified Sports combines persons with and without intellectual and/or physical disabilities on the same team for sports training and competition.

Does Unified Sport Have Board of Control Approval?

  • Yes, this past September, the Board of Control approved the addition of Bowling to the Unified and Adapted opportunities for student-athletes.
  • Unified Bowling allows for high school students with and without intellectual disabilities the opportunity to represent their high school on the same team. 

KHSAA Championship Events

  • For the past several years the KHSAA has offered exhibition events in Track and Field for students in wheelchairs (Adapted events) and expanded to Unified Sports Offerings in 2015.  
  • The KHSAA will offer Unified and Adapted Bowling at the 2017 State Bowling Championships. 

How will Unified Sports work with a KHSAA sport such as Bowling?

  • Unified Bowling is a non-scoring event within the sport-activity of Bowling and follows the regulations and general philosophies of the KHSAA, including season start date and competition start date.
  • Unified Bowling will adhere to the same Bylaws as KHSAA Sport-Activities with noted exceptions listed under the eligibility section.  
  • Offering Unified Bowling allows for inclusion on a school’s varsity Bowling team, but does not replace those teams. It also allows spectators to view all individuals as a contributing member of the team and the school, regardless of ability and disability.

What constitutes a Unified Team?

  • Unified Teams shall consist of an equal number of athletes with intellectual and/or physical disabilities (Special Athletes) and athletes without intellectual and/or physical disabilities (Partner Athletes).
  • Teams may add as many athletes as necessary, but each special athlete requires a partner athlete. 
  • Teams are coed and competition will be coed (until participation numbers warrant gender-specific teams).
  • As few as one Special-Athlete and one Partner Athlete may compete and represent a member school.

Eligibility for Unified Athletes

  • All student partners who meet all KHSAA requirements will qualify as a Partner Athlete.
  • Special Athlete students must meet specific KHSAA eligibility requirements including being enrolled at the school, physician (from the list of approved providers in Bylaw 12) and parental consent, the requirement for insurance, and the practice of sportsmanship.
  • The student must be identified by the school as having an intellectual disability or a closely related developmental disability, such as those who have functional limitations, both in general learning and in adaptive skills such as recreation, work, independent living, self-direction or self-care.
  • All participants shall complete a physical exam, parental consent and insurance forms as required in Bylaw 12 by the KHSAA.
  • The KHSAA physical forms above are the only required forms.
  • Members of the school bowling team are permitted to be Partner Athletes. 
  • *Please note, any student-athlete who participates on their high school Varsity postseason bowling team will not be eligible to be a Special athlete in the unified division.

What competition will be offered?

  • For the regional and state competition, the KHSAA will sponsor exhibition events in Bowling in the Unified division. 
  • Adapted events (for physically disabled athletes) will be available based on need. Please contact our office if you have an adapted athlete interested in the sport-activity of bowling.

Notification that you are entering Unified Teams (regular and postseason)

  • If a school desires to enter a unified team, notify the KHSAA as well as regular season host schools and officials so that events can be planned and schedules can be made accordingly.
  • Click on this link to log in to your school page and check the Unified Bowling box to notify the KHSAA that your school will be competing: 
  • Athletic Directors must also enter special athletes and partner athletes to the Unified Bowling roster. Please contact Rob Catron at if you have technical issues.
  • Unified Bowling is listed as a separate sport in the KHSAA database and will have a separate roster. If your partner athlete is also a high school bowler, please be sure that student-athlete is listed on both rosters. 
  • It is vital that the host school and officials be notified at least one week before a competition if a Unified Team or Adapted athlete is competing, as time schedules may need to be adjusted or other adjustments/accommodations may need to be made.

Coaching Requirements

  • All coaches working with Unified Sports shall meet all certification requirements within Bylaw 25.
  • All coaches should also complete the online Unified Sports course available through the NFHS website named “Coaching Unified Sports”.
  • Please contact Sarah Bridenbaugh at with any coaching questions.  


  • Coaches create event pairs that include one (1) Special Athlete and one (1) Partner Athlete.  
  • These pairs will only compete against other Unified pairs.    
  • Unified competition will utilize the Bakers Doubles Format for both the regional and state tournament in the Unified division.
    • Teams will bowl one baker game and that score will determine their seed.
    • The Baker format will be utilized with the following conditions:
      • Partner Athletes bowl frames 1, 3, 5, 7, 9
      • Special Athletes bowl frames 2, 4, 6, 8, 10
    • Each athlete will bowl all balls within their frame.
    • The team will then be placed in a seeded bracket as dictated by the seed game.
    • If there are any ties in the seed game, the tiebreaker will start at frame 10 and move back until the tie can be broken: 
      • For example, if you have a tie, see which unified pair had the higher score in frame 10 
      • If it is still tied, move to frame 9 and so on until you can break the tie.
    • The winner of each baker game will advance to the next round.
    • Rounds will continue until champions are determined.
    • Awards will be presented to the top eight finishers.
  • Teams should utilize the Baker Double Format in the regular season so Unified Pairs become familiar with it. 
  • No team points will be accumulated during Unified Sports competition.
  • The system for scoring will be analyzed and a determination will be presented at a later time for any revisions, but currently this is an exhibition event and no team points will be scored during this event.
  • The school’s goal should be for Unified teams to compete in at least 2 regular season matches before entering the postseason. 
  • Regional results will be used in the seeding for the state events if necessary. 
  • Unified Pairs must compete in the regional competition in order to participate in the state championship.

School Grant (From Special Olympics Kentucky to be eligible for the grant)

  • Schools competing in Unified Bowling may apply to receive up to a $500 grant, provided the school completes all minimum requirements listed below.
  • Grant funds must be used for Unified Bowling associated expenses such as; coach stipends, coaches training, uniforms, equipment, transportation, etc.
  • Coaches must complete the online Unified Sports course available through the NFHS website named “Coaching Unified Sports”.
  • There will be a required minimum of four (4) participants required (two (2) Special Athletes and two (2) Partners) in order to qualify for a grant offered by Special Olympics.
  • Schools are to notify the KHSAA so that the tracking of teams and athletes can be done to possibly secure funds for a Unified Programs Grant.
  • If a team consists of more than four (4) team members, two (2) coaches are required.  Coaches must complete the NFHS Online Training, “Unified Sports”.
  • It is highly recommended that each team identify one coach with knowledge of and experience in Bowling and one coach with knowledge and experience working with students with special needs.
  • The Unified Sports team season shall be a minimum of six (6) weeks and shall practice according to KHSAA rules.
  • The grant requires at least two (2) practices per week during those six (6) weeks.
  • Unified Teams shall participate in the school’s assigned Regional Tournaments and qualifiers will be invited to the 2017 State Championship in Lexington.

This document is intended to be a general overview of Unified bowling. Additional information and updates will be sent to schools throughout the school year.


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