Unified Sports Update
In This Edition:
Bert Church to Represent Alberta
Unified Bocce Review
Cold Lake Unified Bean Bag Toss
Unified Champion Schools Conference Review
Timeline/What's Coming Up?
For more information on this event, check out: http://sooschoolchampionships2018.ca/
Follow @ASAA on Twitter to for updates on the BCHS Unified Bocce team in May!
Bert church high school to represent Alberta
Bert Church High School (BCHS), recipient of the 2016/17 Special Olympics Alberta Unified School Award, has already attended more Unified events than any other high school in the province. They're adding a new event to the list at the end of May.
The Special Olympics Ontario School Championships became a national invitational tournament last year with teams from Manitoba and Saskatchewan competing in the sports of Basketball and Bocce. This year, Alberta is adding to the list of provinces who attend this Championship by sending a Unified Bocce team from BCHS.
Four students and two teacher supervisors from BCHS will travel to Peterborough, Ontario from May 29-31 to compete for the Unified Bocce School Championship title.
Each Unified Bocce team is made up of two athletes and two partners and all members of BCHS's Unified Bocce team for this event have participated at a previous Unified Bocce event in Calgary.
Opening Ceremonies and divisioning rounds will take place on May 29th, followed by round robin games, playoffs, medal ceremonies, and closing ceremonies on May 30th. Teams from other provinces have not been yet be confirmed.
In 2019, this event will be an international invitational School Championship held in Toronto. We are hoping to have Alberta represented at this international event as well!
Good luck to the Unified Bocce team from Bert Church who will be competing at the Special Olympics Ontario School Championships! We hope you have a great experience and we're looking forward to cheering you on!
Thank-you to all of the volunteers, students, teachers, and coaches who participated in Unified Bocce in October 2017. Participation in these events avalanched with 250 participants between the Edmonton and Calgary tournament! Congratulations Notre Dame High School and Fort High for their achievements in the Calgary and Edmonton events, respectively. Notre Dame took home the prize from the accuracy shoot-out in the Calgary event and Fort High, a first-time Unified school team, took first place in the Edmonton tournament.
Both the events were chalked full of positive sportsmanship that started before students even left their school. Bert Church High School and Notre Dame High School both had custom built ramps to assist some students in rolling the bocce balls. Sturgeon Composite and the combined L.Y. Cairns and Strathcona teams had custom Unified t-shirts complete with their school logos.
Due to the rapid increase in participation numbers, both events were tight on volunteers. Thank you to all who did volunteer, especially all of the teachers and students who eagerly filled the gaps in the volunteer schedule throughout both events. I would like to send a special shoutout to Special Olympics Edmonton for helping to fill some volunteer roles in the Edmonton tournament. Without such enthusiastic teachers and volunteers, events like this would not be possible.
Unified bocce review
When we left my athletes asked. "when can we do that again?"
- post-event survey feedback
Unified Bean Bag Toss
"It was everything you want a sporting event to be and more"
- Kelly Eagles on the CLHS Unified Bean Bag Toss tournament in November
The motivation to host a Unified Bean Bag Toss tournament was simple; students and staff returned to school from the same event at Bonnyville Composite a year earlier brimming with positive energy from the experience. Jared Nichols and Kelly Eagles from Cold Lake High School (CLHS) used that inspiration to plan their own event, inviting surrounding schools to compete as part of a school team.
To kick of the event an athlete and partner sang O’ Canada together, and the energy just grew from there. “It was electric”, said Eagles, the Athletic Director at CLHS.
You could hear the music and feel the energy as soon as you entered the Cold Lake Energy Centre. Students and teachers alike were having a blast; We're not sure whether the bean bag toss or the dance party was more competitive.
Although only one team walked away as Bean Bag Toss Champions, everyone walked away sporting a laser-cut wooden medal and the top two teams won plaques to bring back to their school, courtesy of Nichols.
Hardware or not, what’s the best way to make sure everyone walks away with a smile? Providing game adaptations where needed, of course, but also treating the Unified event like any other sports event. Teachers at CLHS wore their Royals clothing and were encouraged to wish the Bean Bag Toss teams from their school “good luck” before they left for the tournament. Teams from every school were sporting their school jerseys proudly, and for some of the participants, this was a unique opportunity to finally be able to represent their school on a sports team.
More information on Unified Bean Bag Toss here
"I have been involved with Special Olympics for almost 20 years and this is the most exciting advancement that I have seen in my time."
Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools Conference: A Review
The third annual Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools Conference took place in San Antonio, Texas, from February 27 to March 1, 2018. This is the third time that Alberta was represented at this conference, but the first time that both the Executive Director of the ASAA and the CEO of Special Olympics Alberta attended to show support for the program and be inspired with ideas to improve Unified Sports in Alberta high schools. Of the over 300 attendees, there were a total of four Canadian provinces represented, as well as representatives from Unified Sports and school program is Europe Eurasia, East Asia, Asia Pacific, and Latin America.
Below are some of the take-aways from John Paton and John Byrne after attending the Unified Champion Schools conference.
From John Paton, ASAA Executive Director:
Attending the third annual Unified Sports conference in San Antonio was a great opportunity and really opened my eyes to the upside of possibilities in growing Unified Sports in Alberta. Key take aways for me included the following:
I was introduced to a strategy for increasing Unified events in our Track & Field Provincials, including a scoring strategy to encourage increased participation
Understanding that one of the keys to success in getting support for and growing Unified Sports is simply "getting people out to watch." The "people" referred to are the decision makers like superintendents, principals, athletic directors, inclusive education staff in schools, parent council members, etc. This is something we should do here; we are already issuing invitations to media and key Special Olympics supporters so we just need to expand our reach.
Unified Sports is not just about students with intellectual disabilities; it is about all students.
A comment attributed to a student with an intellectual disability resonated with me. That comment was "I have never been bullied, but I have been ignored." Unified opens the door to those "ignored" students to be included and accepted.
That we should focus on the discussion on how the Unified focus is on doing sports "with" students with an intellectual disability, not "for" those students.
That we should more deeply examine risk management factors involved in offering Unified Sports.
That we are close to a time when a Strategic Plan must be developed in Alberta to guide the future growth and development of Unified Sports.
That, as Unified grows, we should examine who the partners are. One suggestion was that the partners should not be varsity players so that those who did not make the varsity team have a chance to represent their school. Another suggestion was that it is a great enrichment for varsity players to be involved in something like Unified. I think we just need to remain open.
From John Byrne, Special Olympics Alberta CEO:
It was an exciting opportunity to be able to travel to the Unified Champion Schools Conference as part of the Alberta contingent. This was my first conference so it was very eye opening to see the development of Unified within schools across the continent. I have been involved with Special Olympics for almost 20 years and this is the most exciting advancement that I have seen in my time. It was very clear that Unified Sports is being embraced by students and schools, and it is making a difference.
It was an especially proud moment to be part of an Alberta contingent which boasts one of the strongest partnerships between Special Olympics and their School Sport Association. Alberta and the ASAA were seen as leaders in this field and that is something all schools, teachers, and administrators in Alberta should be proud of. There are many take aways that are going to help us in the development of our program moving forward. The most consistent message that I received was that this program is awesome and helps change school culture and students' lives for the better... you just have to try it.
"I have never been bullied, but I have been ignored"