The Power of Friendship

William and Emily of Special Olympics Missouri know firsthand the true power of unified sports — friendship!

My name is William Reese, I am 16 and am a partner with Special Olympics at my school, Warrenton High School in Warrenton, Missouri.

What I really like about Unified Sports are all the opportunities I have been given.  I am a member of the Youth Activation Committee (YAC) and through YAC I have done a lot of awesome things.  We have had a lot of training on promoting unified sports and how to promote it in our school.  I have been able to go to Mizzou and promote Spreading the Word to End the Word. I am going this summer to volunteer at sports camp and in just two weeks I am going with my friend Emily Carroll and some other people to Denver Colorado for a Unified Sports workshop.

Through all of the things I have had the opportunity to do with Unified Sports, the most important are the friendships I have been able to build.  I have met Emily and we team up a lot for YAC events, and when she gets nervous, I am there to help her.

Being a leader
This last weekend at a unified basketball game we played a team that was younger than our high school team, so we did not play as aggressively as we normally would.  All of the partners were able to talk with our teammates about why we were not going to play as aggressively as we usually do. You could see how much it meant to the athletes on the other team and it was a great feeling, every time the other team scored we cheered just like with our own teammates!  As partner we were there to lead our teammates, but the athletes were also given the opportunity to be leaders.  Being a part of Special Olympics Unified Sports really teaches you to be a true team player!

My friend Emily
My friend Emily Carroll is 15 and has been a Special Olympics athlete at in our school district since she was 8.  What Emily likes about Special Olympics Unified Sports are “all of my friends”.  Emily is a member of YAC and she was really excited about going to Mizzou to promote Spread the Word to End the Word, what she really liked was “spending the day with James Franklin, her friend”James is a first string quarterback for Mizzou and he was there volunteering his time!

Emily has made a lot of friends through unified sports and she has become much more outgoing, I see her coming out of her shell more all the time!  She even went to the Torch Run Kickoff Conference a few months ago to introduce some speakers.  When I heard Emily was going to do this I was amazed because she gets so nervous, but she did an amazing job!

The end that is not the end…
Emily and I both really enjoy unified sports, it has changed us both so much and it is something we will both be participating in for a really long time!

I am a Unified Partner

We continue this month’s focus on Unified Sports with a blog from Unified Partner (and National Youth Activation Committee member) Courtney Neil – she shares her personal story about the benefit of Unified Sports participation.

Like any kid, I was brought up in a world of sports that centered on winning, competition, and giving it your all, but something that set my sporting experiences apart from the rest is my participation with Special Olympics.

When I first tell people about my involvement with the group, it usually follows with a double take, or a question like “Oh, what problems do you have?” but I participate a little differently:

I am a Unified Partner. 

I have competed with Special Olympics for 11 years and absolutely love it. I compete alongside my older sister Alyssa who is much more than my teammate.  She’s my inspiration and my daily reminder to never take anything at face value.  Unified Sports have definitely helped me in that as well.

Unified Sports puts individuals with and without disabilities together on teams to compete in various sports.  It shows you that a person’s ability level has nothing to do with their ability to play a sport and do it well.  It teaches compassion and understanding in a way that can’t happen in any other atmosphere.  You and your teammates are working as a team to accomplish something, and like any other sports team, you build a positive relationship that’s unlike any other.  You learn to give people the chance to prove themselves without judging them right off the bat and learning to trust a person and their skills without reservations.

Being involved in such an amazing organization and just playing sports has opened up a world of opportunity for me.  I have been exposed to all different types of people that I may not have met otherwise and made real friendships that will withstand anything.  Unified Sports has brought me so much closer to my sister and really helped me understand her and where she’s coming from.

If we weren’t involved with our state Special Olympic Program, I know we wouldn’t be as close as we are right now, and we have Special Olympics to thank for that.

Sports Bring Us Together

If you’ve ever wondered about the power of unified sports, then you’ll definitely want to read this fantastic blog post from Jared Niemeyer. Jared is a 20 year old athlete from Special Olympics Missouri and has been involved with Special Olympics for almost 11 years. He is also on the National Youth Activation Committee, serving as a great example of youth leadership in action.

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Playing sports is a great way to meet people and make new friends!

No matter who you are or what you like doing – you can almost always find a sport that you can enjoy!  Even people with lots of different abilities can play together and get to know one another by working together!  You can have fun, encourage each other, laugh together, and work hard together to become a team.  This getting to know other people is really important, because you learn to care for each other as you spend time together.

One of my most amazing Special Olympics moments was when my high school baseball team (I am the team manager) came to my SO area event to cheer on our SO team!  These guys came just because they are my friends and they care about how our school SO team did!  It was so cool to see my baseball team there just to cheer us on!  The coaches came too and the next year the team brought signs of support for us!

They made us feel really special because they care!

If we hadn’t participated in sports together they wouldn’t have known about what we do in Special Olympics!  Now our school has more SO unified partners and more of our classmates know who we are because we play sports together!  We’ve gotten to know one another and now care about each other – we’re friends!!

Being on a sports team together lets us meet classmates, their families, and do more community activities together. We’ve become friends with our teammates; spent time together, our families have become friends and everyone in our community had found out that having a disability doesn’t make us different from them. As more people find out that we are just like them – we have more opportunities and are included in more things.  Sports help everybody learn that people in Special Olympics aren’t any different than they are.

Sports can be FUN for EVERYONE!