The Student News Site of South Windsor High School

The Bobcat Prowl

The Bobcat Prowl

The Student News Site of South Windsor High School

The Bobcat Prowl

Unified Sports Program Promotes Inclusion Locally

(Disabled and able-bodied students playing volleyball together during the Unified Sports class).
Maanya Pande
(Disabled and able-bodied students playing volleyball together during the Unified Sports class).

Diversity and inclusion can often be overlooked in the world of sports, especially when it comes to those with disabilities. Strides have been made in recent years to rectify this, and the Unified Sports program at South Windsor High School works hard to bridge the gap between students with disabilities and those without. 

The Unified Sports Program was founded in 1992 when the Connecticut Special Olympics partnered with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. This partnership encouraged high schools to bring unified sports into Connecticut’s schools. The program proliferated, reaching over 95% of the public schools in Connecticut. 

Public high schools throughout Connecticut create teams ranging from training divisions to high-level competition, making the program more accessible for different skill levels. According to the Connecticut Special Olympics, Unified Sports is “a program that combines approximately equal numbers of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on sports teams for training and competition.”  

The Unified Sports program was introduced to South Windsor High School by Ex-Athletic Director, Jack Longo, over 30 years ago. In 2014, David Sytulek became South Windsor High School’s current Athletic Director, and he has been lending support to this program in every way possible since.

“My role is to assist in scheduling buses as needed for away games against other schools with Unified Sports Teams and to arrange the schedule for home games as communicated to me by Coach Martin.  In addition, we arrange a budget that can be utilized for items such as needed equipment and uniforms to support the program,” Sytulek told The Prowl. 

The benefits of this course are endless, not only for those with intellectual disabilities but also for their peers. In many circumstances, students with disabilities are separated from their peers, having separate classes and transportation. The Unified Sports program allows students with disabilities to connect with their peers through an enjoyable activity.

“I have supported the program full-heartedly as I feel it is a great opportunity for student-athletes with special needs to participate in athletics and be supported by our coaches and able-bodied student volunteers,” Sytulek explained. 

The friendships created in this class work to connect disabled and able-bodied students.

Unified sports is by far my favorite class I’ve ever taken

— senior Rosie Christophel

“Unified sports is by far my favorite class I’ve ever taken, I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people through the class and it’s the perfect way to end the day,” said senior Rosie Christophel, who is taking the class for the second year. 

Studies show that students with disabilities are at an advantage when exposed to different environments. Los Angeles Unified School District discovered many students with disabilities learn age-appropriate social skills by mimicking their peers. In addition, the challenging setting allows disabled students to become independent and learn developmentally advanced skills. 

According to the CIAC, “Participation in Unified Sports leads to new friendships, improved self-esteem, and positive changes in attitude, behavior, and performance.” 

Los Angeles Unified School District expresses the benefits for students without disabilities as well. The integration of disabled students increases social cognition skills and develops a deeper understanding of children with disabilities. In addition, these high school students rapidly adapt to the idea of inclusivity. Inclusion is a life skill many high school students will need in their futures as they are immersed in different environments.

The Unified sports program is one of the various ways of integrating disabled students. Its implementation at South Windsor High School has made strides in bridging the gap between able and disabled students in the school environment.

“The students in the Special Ed program really look forward to this part of the day and even look up to the other students they get to interact with,”  commented a South Windsor High School paraprofessional, Lori West.

By offering Unified Sports as a course at South Windsor High School, students can add the class to their weekly schedules. Since students are provided with a designated time to attend this class, they are dedicated to the course and their peers, fostering strong relationships between the students, disabled and non-disabled.


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About the Contributors
Eliza Blanchfield is a South Windsor High School sophomore excited to write for The Bobcat Prowl. During her sophomore year, she looks forward to reporting on the many controversial topics at South Windsor High School. Eliza is an Editor for The Prowl, she will be able to guide new and returning writers while expanding her knowledge of Journalism. In her free time, she enjoys playing girls' volleyball in the fall for South Windsor High School, while participating in the Travel Club year-round. She loves reading, participating in sports, and hanging out with friends and family. 
Maanya Pande, Finance Manager
Maanya is a senior at SWHS who is interested in a career in civil rights or law. She enjoys reading & writing and hopes for opportunities to make an impact with her writing. Outside of class, she also enjoys dancing and running. She also runs for the girls cross country team.