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Published: April 24, 2019 Author: Tony Meale

The Patton College of Education’s Recreation and Sport Pedagogy Department hosted a Unified Bocce Tournament on Sunday, April 14, with athletes and guests from Expanding YOUR Horizons (EYH) competing in the event. 

EYH serves children and adults with developmental disabilities throughout Southeast Ohio. It provides recreational opportunities and community events that promote self-esteem, self-determination, and choice while cultivating skill development, independence, and community inclusion.

“This is a great advocacy event for inclusion for people with disabilities,” said Dr. Brian Rider, Recreation & Sport Pedagogy lecturer. “Inclusivity is so important, and we are all proud to play a small part in the revolution to provide greater opportunities for all.”

The event, held at Walter Fieldhouse, allowed teacher candidates from Rider's Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) 2330 Inclusive Physical Activity and Sport course to partner with athletes from EYH. Teacher candidates and coaches explained bocce rules and strategy prior to the tournament, with 24 teams competing for the Unified Bocce Championship. Each team was guaranteed five matches of tournament play.

“The bocce tournament was a great experience for me personally and for all of the participants as a whole,” said Gunner Stanley, a Physical Activity and Sports Coaching major. “We were able to create a fun, competitive, and very inclusive environment. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to compete in sport, and providing that type of experience for the EYH members who maybe haven’t had those opportunities as often as they should was something very important.”

Stanley was impressed by participants’ enthusiasm, as well as the eventual winner’s sheer joy.

“His energy brought the house down,” said Stanley. “Seeing how he felt celebrating his tournament win was a reminder as to why these unified sporting events are so important. He lapped the crowd high-fiving everyone, celebrating his moment. That is the epitome of what these events provide for everyone.”

Unified Sports are dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition by joining individuals with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. Unified Sports are an integral part of the Special Olympics’ mission for inclusive opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship. The "Play Unified" revolution was inspired by a simple principle: "Training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”

Teacher candidates Cameron Kindred and Lilly Michigan experienced that firsthand.

“My partner, who went into the event never playing before, did awesome,” said Michigan, a Moderate to Intensive Educational Needs major. “She told me after a practice round that we were definitely going to win some games.”

They went 2-2 in the tournament.

“It was not about winning though, but playing unified, making friends, and having a great time,” said Michigan. “I hope there will be more Unified Sports Events around our area.”

Kindred, meanwhile, was struck by the athletes’ competitiveness, as well as their ability to laugh and have fun regardless of the result.

“I can't emphasize enough how rewarding this experience was,” the Health and Physical Education major said. “Anyone who hasn't volunteered for an event like this, I encourage to as soon as possible. It was very eye-opening and something I'll never forget. I'm glad Dr. Rider gave us this opportunity.”

 

Dr. Brian Rider

Photographer: Gabe HannahsDr. Brian Rider, Recreation & Sport Pedagogy lecturer, gives instructions during the Unified Bocce Tournament.

Group photo from event

Photographer: Gabe HannahsPatton College students and athletes from Expanding YOUR Horizons participated in a Unified Bocce Tournament at Walter Fieldhouse on April 14.

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