July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 25

Promoting Inclusion in Youth Sports
Embodying inclusion demands that no one is excluded or
required to face additional rules or scrutiny to fairly and
fully participate. Inclusive behaviors in youth sports provide
opportunities and options to kids of all backgrounds,
ages and abilities. Children who have a disability are 4.5
times less active and have obesity rates that are 38 percent
higher than other youth, but often the biggest barrier for
these youth is simply a lack of awareness about how to
engage children with various abilities in physical activity.
Recognizing that young people with disabilities do not
often get a chance to play on their school's sports teams,
Special Olympics champions the Unified Sports program
(tinyurl.com/24rz3j9d) to connect people with and without
intellectual disabilities (ID) on the same team. This
scalable social sports model brings together teams of similarly
aged kids to practice and experience games that are
challenging but fun in nature.
Park and recreation professionals can be champions of
unified sports models by offering opportunities for people
of all backgrounds, ages and abilities to participate
together. Through local Special Olympics programs (tiny
url.com/43ub9v8u), park and recreation professionals
can receive education and training on the various inclusive
sports programs they can offer in their community.
The Impact of Youth Sports on Athletes
Sports help athletes deal with the highs and lows of life,
helping kids learn about losing, winning and channeling
emotions. Sports also foster a sense of belonging
outside of school and the nuclear family.
Research suggests that organized social activities, such
as sports, can help facilitate social involvement of people
with ID in the community (tinyurl.com/7vmz9npb). Because
Unified Sports provides people with and without
ID the opportunity to play on the same sports team, they
create a space for friendships, physical activity and fun
that might not have existed otherwise. " After we came
back from our first [Unified Sports event], I saw kids interacting
in the hallways, either just saying hi or giving a
high five. And normally, these kids wouldn't even talk to
each other, " says a Special Olympics coach in Florida.
Why Inclusion in Sports Is Important
Even before mandated physical distancing began due
to COVID-19, it was recorded that almost 10 percent
of people ages 16 to 24 considered themselves " always
or often " lonely (tinyurl.com/uamf8e99). In individuD.
B.
als
with an ID, the average loneliness prevalence was
44.74 percent (tinyurl.com/3hz7cah4).
Now more than ever, it is essential that young people
have the foundations of meaningful relationships, social
connections and lasting support, so that they feel
equipped to handle difficult times. These foundations
not only support them during social isolation, but also
prepare them for the discomfort that may come with
reintegration into normal life.
By creating meaningful and inclusive friendships,
young people are taking steps to ensure social isolation
- and the mental and physical health risks associated
with them - is less prevalent. This means that children
with and without IDs who feel supported may have
longer, healthier and higher quality lives.
For more information about inclusive health within parks
and recreation, visit nrpa.org/ParksForInclusion.
Teresa Morrissey (she/her) is a Program Manager of Park Access at NRPA
(tmorrissey@nrpa.org). Maureen Neumann (she/her) is a Program
Manager of Health and Wellness at NRPA (mneumann@nrpa.org).
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| Parks & Recreation
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July 2021 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of July 2021 - Parks & Recreation

July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Intro
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover1
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover2
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 1
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 2
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 3
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 4
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 5
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 6
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July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover3
July 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover4
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com