About the Ags United Inclusive Sports Program
The Department of Campus Recreation and Unions has launched an inclusive sports program that promotes unity and understanding by bringing together people with and without disabilities to play sports and compete in an integrated way. The department will host games in different sports each quarter, with registration open to any UC Davis student, and we will invite Team Davis as well as other local teams to participate. Team Davis is a non-profit community organization that serves local residents with developmental, cognitive and/or physical disabilities. Team Davis serves as the Davis area’s Special Olympics team.
Ags United participants will play side by side on evenly mixed teams in games like the program’s inaugural soccer matches. The philosophy behind the program is that by bringing people with and without disabilities together to play on the same team in a common sport, the department can help create an environment that knocks down preconceptions and promotes friendship and understanding. For more information about the impetus behind the Ags United program, see below.
Why It Matters—For Everyone
Ags United, and the Unified Sports concept on which it is based (see below), provides mutual benefits to all involved. In a New York Times article about the Unified Sports program, Andrea Cahn, the senior director of Project Unify for the Special Olympics national office in Washington, explained how unified sports transforms all participants: “We know that the interaction that happens in unified sports is the point at which a change in attitude happens for all students involved,” she said. “Our athletes have an unconditional appreciation for other people. They persevere even in the face of being bullied and teased. We can pull back the veil of the unknown and make people real.” (1)
For UC Davis students dealing with hectic schedules and rigorous academics, playing sports with Ags United is a way to have fun, relieve stress, and give back to the community. This was evident at the inaugural event, where all the players cheered, hugged, and congratulated each other enthusiastically after the games. UC Davis student Daniel Walker, who worked at the ARC as a member services lead and an office and facility assistant, explained why he came out to play soccer for Ags United even though it was pouring rain: “I wanted to help give back. We don’t get to do this very often, so I jumped at the opportunity.” He added, “I will definitely come back for future games.”
How Ags United Began
Ags United is modeled on the Unified Sports program, which Special Olympics initiated in high schools in 2008 to promote “social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences”(2) (see below for more information). The past Director of recreation for Campus Recreation and Unions, was inspired by Unified Sports and realized that the department could host its own program. She worked with Associate Director of Wellness Heather Gastellum and other Campus Recreation and Unions staff to develop Ags United based on the Unified Sports model. The name Ags United was chosen in order to embody both the essence of UC Davis and the spirit of cooperative and integrated play that characterizes unified team sports.
Once the first game was planned, the department invited Team Davis members to participate in the Ags United event along with UC Davis students. In addition to these efforts, other opportunities have included helping to coordinate and host sports clinics on campus with Intercollegiate Athletics and, launching an employment development program at the ARC called WorkAbility which will now be extended to the newly opened Memorial Union. The Ags United program is just one part of the department’s long-term strategic plan to fulfill a set of core goals, one of which is community and inclusivity.
More About Team Davis
More About Unified Sports
Contact for Ags United
Heather Gastellum, Associate Director, Recreation
(1) Dan Frosch, “Unified Team Take Special Olympics Approach to School Sports,” The New York Times, February 12, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/sports/unified-sports-teams-open-doors-for-special-education-students.html?_r=0
(2) “Special Olympics: Unified Sports,” Special Olympics, accessed December 5, 2013, http://www.specialolympics.org/unified-sports.aspx