Learning Unity and Inclusion Through Unified Soccer

By Ben Lennon

JULY 3, 2018

The Unified Soccer Experience clinics that took place on Monday at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, started like any good soccer camp – with a little bit of chaos. Athletes running around, soccer balls flying, and bursts of laughter filling the air.

A few quick calls to “Circle up!” brought the pitch to order as dozens of local youth players formed into smaller groups and started practicing the basics: passing, dribbling and, most importantly, teamwork.

Unified Soccer provides the perfect setting for teaching the values embodied by Special Olympics with an emphasis on unity and inclusion. Unified Sports accomplishes this by placing people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same teams. This enables them to learn the specific roles each teammate needs to play to achieve chemistry and success.

For instance, when the groups practice passing by forming two groups and trying to keep the ball away from the opposition, every player serves a critical role. If a team doesn’t utilize each of their players, the other team will quickly get the ball back.

In the final scrimmages, the clinics finished much like they started (though with a bit more form) as the athletes ran around, soccer balls flying towards teammates and goals, and plenty of joy and laughter as the teams came together in a celebration of unity inclusion.