By Ken Reed
The recent Special Olympics event held in California was a great success, from many perspectives.
But in my mind, the most exciting development is the growth of Unified Sports, teams made up of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. Unified Sports is a great tool for mainstreaming athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“The real sort of long-term vision (for Special Olympics) is total inclusion,” says Bart Connor, a former USA gymnast and now a Special Olympics board member.
“What we are really promoting now is this division of Special Olympics called Unified Sports made up of a team of individuals with and without intellectual disabilities playing together. And if we get that right, that could be mainstream in public schools. This is about inclusiveness. This not only raises the play and the experience for the athletes; it also is a catalyst for a connection. So, you might likely become friends with an athlete that you might have never had the opportunity to meet. And that means you will invite them to your house or to a movie. That is what we are talking about. It’s social acceptance, and sport is the vehicle to help make that happen.”
Scott Gleeson wrote a terrific piece on the Unified Sports movement within Special Olympics in the “For the Win” section of USA Today. He points out the importance of inclusion, not just for Special Olympics athletes but society as a whole.
“[Unified Sports} is a movement, and one that needs as much fuel as possible,” wrote Gleeson. “Whether it’s in school or in the workforce, people with intellectual disabilities are undoubtedly stigmatized. Weird. Stupid. Different. The list goes on.”
Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver also stresses the importance of inclusion, which was highlighted in this year’s Games.
“We know without a doubt people with intellectual disabilities are isolated and excluded,” said Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver.
“Our mission is not to run big events. Our goal is to create an opportunity for connection. Sooner rather than later, we need to have an inclusive sports program in every school in the nation. We should have a Title IX for every school for those with intellectual disabilities and call it Title Unified.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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