State Unified VolleyballWhen you think of the word unified, what comes to mind? I’m sure the words undivided, together, united come up frequently.  When I hear the word unified  I immediately think of sports.  This may seem bizarre because sports usually produce ideas of competition, teamwork, and specific sports.  In our world at LEEP and within Special Olympics, unified is a team of athletes with and without a disability.  A unified sport INCLUDES everyone and provides a highly competitive experience.  The inclusion movement is up and coming.  This movement pushes to encompass every citizen of the community to be involved and an important aspect to society.  This is growing into to the sports world through the opportunity to get involved in a unified sport.   

We are working to disable the label of disabilities by providing highly competitive sports that include everyone from all walks of life.  Being a part of a unified sport not only makes a difference to the athletes with a disability, but can change the lives of unified partners.  Being a unified partner gives a different understanding when thinking of a person with a disability.  The focus is not on an athlete’s disability, but their ABILITY.   There is no clear division between the athletes because there is ONE team.  Teammates support and grow with each other as the season progresses and it is no different on a unified team.  Athletes push each of their teammates to prove there are no limits in their capabilities.  As our community continues to grow within the inclusion movement, I can’t wait to see unified sports becoming a regular event in the sports world. Here at LEEP we have unified basketball, unified volleyball, and unified flag football with the plan of having all sports unified!

So, even though the words undivided, together and united are clear definitions and included in a unified sport, the word unified means so much more. As I enjoyed the Minnesota Lynx playoff game last night, I was struck by their advertisement in their program; We are Unified.  Even though this was in a basketball program, my idea of unified had a different meaning than what the ad was portraying.  I look forward to a day when we all see the word unified and think of the meaning of inclusion and no limits for all athletes!