Tom Smart, Deseret News
SANDY — The Utah High School Activities Association and Special Olympics Utah kicked off their partnership Thursday evening with an exhibition game at halftime of the 5A championship match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Two Bingham High-based soccer teams played a five-minute, 5-on-5 exhibition game to illustrate the new affiliation between the two organizations, which have joined together in an effort to expand Project UNIFY, a Special Olympics program that offers interscholastic sports for students with disabilities, by adding another division of play in high school athletics.
“We are excited to partner with an entity that sanctions high school activities in Utah and help expand the number of students served by UHSAA," said Amy Hansen, CEO of Special Olympics Utah. "Much like Title IX was for women in the United States, we know there is room for improvement in giving access to sports for students with disabilities."
The Unified Sports soccer teams are comprised of 10 players — six Special Olympics athletes and four Unified Sports partners with a 3-to-2 ratio on the field at all times.
The UHSAA and Special Olympics will offer opportunities in both soccer and track and field beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
“The vision, both with Special Olympics Utah and us, is that more and more kids get involved in education-based activities,” said UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff. “This will allow more students to be involved with their school and allow more students to learn those lifelong lessons that will carry on a lot longer than high school sports.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.
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