Special Olympics Texas Partners with HSU to bring Unified Program to Campus
(ABILENE, Texas)–New to campus for Fall 2019 is the partnership between Special Olympics Texas and Hardin-Simmons University’s Department of University Recreation (UREC). Through the Unified league, athletes from Special Olympics Texas are paired with HSU students to compete in flag-football games every other week. On Oct. 15, HSU’s inaugural Unified season ended, as UREC hosted championship games at Shelton Stadium at 7, 8, and 9 p.m.
In January of this year, HSU UREC staff members attended a conference where Special Olympics hosted a Unified table. After discussing the program with Special Olympics staff members, UREC decided that the program was an incredible opportunity not only for the athletes involved but also for the Hardin-Simmons student body.
“I said that if it’s something we can do, we should implement it,” said Donavon Hailey, coordinator for University Recreation at HSU. He explained that Unified aims to “create an inclusive but competitive environment… They come and want to compete and be treated like regular athletes.”
Moving forward, UREC wants to host both Unified volleyball and soccer leagues, along with continuing the current flag-football program; however, the program still needs participants and volunteers. Registering for Unified parallels registering for any other intramural sports programs.
To register, students should create profiles on IMLeagues, the platform used by UREC to organize intramurals teams, and sign up for Unified. UREC encourages both teams and free-agents to sign up. The teams compete on Thursday nights, every other week. For those who want to participate but do not want to compete, all Unified games are open for the public to watch.
This partnership not only benefits the athletes involved but the HSU students who act as partners, as well. “One of the most important things I’ve heard is ‘this is bigger than us, and we are just blessed that the Lord gave us a role in this,’” said Hailey regarding a conversation he had with a participating student.