Students, athletes participate in ongoing unified basketball league

The Wellness Center began partnering with the local Special Olympics in fall of 2016, creating the unified sports league for students and athletes. This is the first semester that the unified basketball league is offered.

Mike Richardson, assistant director of the wellness center, said, “It’s important to provide a non-competitive, recreational opportunity to our students, all the while doing it for an amazing cause. With recreational sports, all of our regular leagues are competitive and the students are striving to win each game and, ultimately, the championship. With unified sports league, it is an opportunity to participate in recreation but for a much greater cause than just winning. The Special Olympics athletes love getting to interact with our MSU partners each week, and by all accounts, is a victory within itself for both parties.”

The basketball league is just one out of the three unified sports leagues, others including soccer and softball, that are put on at the Wellness Center with the Special Olympics.

Richardson said, “It’s all for fun, and the smiles on both the Special Olympics athletes faces plus the MSU partners, make everything worth it at the end of the day. By the end, it has turned into much more of a social setting where the MSU partners are interacting and getting to know the Special Olympics athletes, which is ultimately the most important thing.”

Special Olympics promotes social inclusion using sports and exercise. Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities. Inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.

“The soccer league each fall has produced great numbers, having anywhere between 20-30 MSU partners volunteering their time each week. When we began our initial partnership, we started with an outdoor soccer league.  To this day, we have continued that league each Fall Semester to much success,” Richardson said. “This semester, spring 2019, we are introducing basketball, and it has gone great so far, we have about 12 MSU partners participating”

The league meets every Wednesday and plays four eight-minute quarters. There are two teams participating in the league. The unified basketball league continues until March 27.

Sydney Thacker, nursing freshmen, said, “I had heard about the league from a friend and thought that I would be a great way to volunteer and have fun at the same time. I think that this league gives an equal chance for everyone to show off their skills and talent.”

Students are encouraged to come to the Wellness center and sign up.

Kyle Hackett, undecided freshman said, “I wanted to join because most of my friends were interested in getting involved with the tournament. It is a fun opportunity to get some exercise and it allows everyone to feel included.”