Athletes and Unified® Teammates the Deeper Impact of Special Olympics Maryland
Special Olympics Unified® Sports combines individuals with intellectual disabilities with peers without intellectual disabilities to form teams that compete against other similarly formed teams. Special Olympics Maryland has offered Unified® Sports for over 30 years, which since 2009 has included our Interscholastic Unified® Sports program and more recently our Unified® Young Athletes program and growing Unified® Champion Schools programs at all grade levels. We recently completed our annual census which resulted in very positive news in the form of year over year growth in “athlete” participation. We had 6,422 athletes train and compete in 2022 which is up 48% from 4,340 in 2021. This continues a positive post-pandemic trend of reaching more athletes in-person.
But that’s not the whole story. Additional good news comes in the form of continuing to include even more non-Special Olympics athletes as teammates in our wide range of Unified® Sports program opportunities. In total we had 9,166 Unified® teammates participate in some way with our athletes, resulting in a total of 15,588 lives being impacted through year-round sports training and competition. The attached chart provides a snapshot of participation with year over year comparisons dating back to 2016. This illustrates how we are building interactive inclusive communities of dignity and respect while demonstrating what it means when I refer to creating a Unified® generation. As we move forward our messaging will focus on this broader, more inclusive representation of the impact that we have through our mission.