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October 2019: Unified Sports

Our Experience

CAC member, Jim Clark, plays unified basketball and soccer at the University of Oregon. He taught us a lot about the program. Another CAC member, Rusty Hawkins, has also played on unified teams. They both had so many great things to say about it! So we did some research and interviewed Sean Graninger, Assistant Director of Intramural Sports at the UO. Here’s what we learned.  

What We Learned

What is the mission of Unified Sports?

Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. About 1.4 million people worldwide take part in Unified Sports, breaking down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities in a really fun way. In Unified Sports, teams are made up of people of similar age and athletic ability.

When did Unified Sports start at the UO?

We began this program in January of 2018 hoping that we had enough UO students come out to field two basketball teams; fast forward one year and we were able to put together two soccer leagues, six intramural basketball teams, and travel out-of-state to compete against other institutions and programs. Our students and athletes have made lifelong friendships and memories all thanks to the simple concept of playing together.

Who are the coaches? 

The program is supported by coordinators from Eugene/Springfield Special Olympics as well as other local volunteer coaches. After teams are formed for each season, one UO student serves as the team captain and helps facilitate playing time and substitutions for their team.

How many UO Unified teams and players are there?

Typically, we will have 4-6 teams per sport depending on the number of players that sign up. On average we see about 40-60 players for each season but we’re always looking for more players to join this fun league!

Are there other Unified teams in Oregon?

Right now, the state Special Olympics office offers unified programs for various sports throughout the year. Pacific University in Forest Grove also offers Unified Sports at the collegiate level. There are also many high schools in the state of Oregon that offer unified sports now too!

What’s new with Unified?

The Oregon Ducks Unified Basketball team went to Nationals! Winning the NIRSA Region VI basketball tournament at Eastern Washington University in Cheney on March 8-10, 2019 means the Ducks Unified team automatically advanced to the NCS National Championship in Wichita, Kansas, where they made it all the way to the Final Four!

Get Involved

Special Olympic Athletes can sign up for free through the Eugene/Springfield Special Olympic program. UO students, faculty, and staff can get involved for $10/term by visiting IMLeagues.com/uo and joining the Unified league.

At the beginning of each season all of our players participate in some quick sport assessment drills like dribbling the ball, passing the ball, shooting the ball etc. After this assessment day, we will sit down and divide up the players into the appropriate number of teams to try and make the teams as fair as possible.

Want to know when you can watch the next game? Ask a player or contact Sean Graninger, Assistant Director for Intramural Sports, at seangran@uoregon.edu.

Watch OSAA Unified Basketball State Championships (YouTube Video)

OSAA Unified Basketball State Championships (YouTube Video)