One of the newest opportunities for athletes across Kansas is Unified Bowling, and athletes from all Shawnee Mission high schools have hit the lanes this fall.
This week, all eyes are on the Unified athletes as they enter into their first Kansas State High School Activities Association state tournament. Earlier this year KSHSAA announced that they would partner with Special Olympics to encourage Unified Bowling across the state, making it an official competitive sport.
“Now that this is a KSHSAA sport, the banners go up in the school gym just like everyone else,” Dr. John Johnson, Shawnee Mission South athletic director said.
Unified Bowling brings students who have disabilities to play alongside students who do not have disabilities. Some athletes bowl with accommodations, like ramps, and some do not. All games are played in a Baker format, which places a scoring emphasis on the team effort rather than individual accomplishment. Through these methods, all participants get to learn and experience numerous benefits by playing together, Dr. Johnson shared.
“It’s the ultimate inclusion activity,” he added. “The students are all crossing boundaries and getting to have experiences they may never have had.”
Athlete Alex Dovrak, senior, has also participated in Unified bocce and basketball as recreational activities at Shawnee Mission South. He said he always enjoys getting an opportunity to spend time with friends outside of school.
“It’s competitive and I like it and it’s challenging competing with other schools,” Dvorak reflected.
The activity helps students build relationships, Nicole Potts, SM North senior shared.
“You try to get to know each other on a personal level, not just people that bowl,” she expressed. “We come together, support each other, and try to motivate each other the best we can.”
Unified Bowling is a great way to help all participating students build interpersonal skills, SM South Unified Bowling coach Sara Simpson shared. Throughout the season she has seen students demonstrate greater responsibility. They also practice a lot of sportsmanship, such as how to manage disappointment or frustration and how to show you are happy for competitors and teammates. In addition to Unified Bowling, bocce, and basketball, Unified athletes are involved throughout the Shawnee Mission South community. For example, this fall the athletes hosted a Trunk-or-Treat event.
“That involvement gives more opportunity for the community to recognize the individuality of all students and feel comfortable interacting with those who have disabilities, and use those skills even after they have long since graduated,” Simpson shared.
KSHSAA has partnered with Special Olympics Kansas to encourage and develop Unified Bowling through school memberships in Kansas.
The first state championship competition will be held on November 18, 2021 at Olathe-Mission Bowl, 1020 Weaver St. Click here for more information.