Project Description

Virtual Roundtables
NIRSA Ideas in Motion

Unified Sports Roundtable

Recorded on Wednesday, April 8, 9:00am PT / 12:00pm ET

Facilitated by Scott George and Amanda Alpert

Register for this Virtual Roundtable Today

Chat Transcript

00:29:11Amanda Alpert

Welcome everyone!!

00:29:27Brittany Mueller


00:29:57Shana Kessler

greetings from Central Washington!

00:30:08Greg Durham

Cheers from Creighton!

00:30:31Kaitlee Francisco

Hello from New Jersey!

00:30:31Drew Devore

Greetings from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities

00:30:33Laura Shively

HI from Arkansas!

00:30:46Tony North Jr

Happy Hump Day from Toledo

00:30:49Ross Rodriguez

Fire Up Chip! Hook ‘Em, Horns!

00:30:59Jordan Leslie

Fire up

00:31:46Liz Belecky

hello from Colorado State!

00:31:49Chasity Holstick

Hi from Covington GA, Georgia State University


Hi from Fayetteville GA, Ferris State

00:32:37Jeff Hares - Montana State University

Hi from Montana State!

00:32:51Rebecca Boyd

Rebecca Boyd, York University, Ontario, Canada

00:32:54Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

Jenna Smith - Western University, London, Ontario, Canada

00:33:15Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

Hi from Colorado!

00:33:37Mitch Bonar Indiana weslyan universty Special Olympics indiana

Hello everyone

00:33:55Jonathan Johnston

Hi all!!

00:33:56Jamaica Cannon

Hi from sunny 87 degree WashU in St. Louis

00:34:10David Wiley - Xavier University

I hope all is well!

00:34:18Matt Dunigan - UC Riverside

Good morning from RAINY southern California...

00:34:51Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

CSU received their banner this year!!

00:35:45Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

Ontario, Canada hosted our first ever University/College on campus Basketball Championship - thanks Amanda for answering questions on our call before the event!

00:35:53Amanda Alpert, University of Mississippi

Share your positive impact stories here with Unified Sports!

00:35:57Aaron Brooks - The University of Akron

What a GREAT story! Thank you Mitch!

00:36:37Chop City

YAAAAAAAAAAA CSUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

00:36:41Jonathan Johnston - A&M Commerce

Yes congratulations CSU!!!!

00:36:48Drew Devore University of Minnesota Twin Cities


00:36:55Kaitlee Francisco-Special Olympics

Go #RAMily

00:42:30Amanda Alpert, University of Mississippi

Share your thoughts: What are ways that Campus Recreation and Special Olympics can support each other during this time?

00:43:31Mitch Bonar Indiana weslyan universty Special Olympics indiana

Hmm we could do a bingo night

00:44:05Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

Liz and I were thinking of doing athlete and partner highlights every week!

00:44:12Lexxi O'Brien SO Iowa

SOIA has launched an online social MOVEment, encouraging athletes, Unified partners and supporters to participate in challenges to earn points and win prizes

00:44:26Dan Ekonen SOMI

We've had some of our SO College students checking in with our athletes via social media

00:44:37Drew Devore University of Minnesota Twin Cities

@Lexi do you have a link to this information?

00:45:28Scott George - Special Olympics North America

A lot of the virtual fitness and wellness opportunities that campus recreation departments can be super valuable for our athletes that are looking to stay fit and involved

00:45:44Ross Rodriguez - UT Austin

Great ideas, all!

00:45:47Cecilia UW - Madison

UW - Madison made a Facebook page with SOWI to give everyone a platform to share what they are doing to stay active and healthy. The goal is the Fit5 (exercise 5 days a week, eat 5 fruits and vegetables, and drink 5 bottle of water)

00:45:50Chop City

Utilizing sport specific SO virtual trainings are also a great tool

00:46:09Drew Devore University of Minnesota Twin Cities

at Minnesota I have set up a monthly check in with our SO Club on Campus and Special Olympics Minnesota. We are working to set actionable items we can work on collectively so we are ready for the Fall

00:46:18DJ Doss - Kennesaw State

We are holding social media competitions for trick shots and for championship t-shirt designs. Other social media challenges may be great options to promote engagement!

00:46:50Lexxi O'Brien SO Iowa

Drew-- the following link is our facebook group! This is where our challenges are posted. Participants post photos and videos to earn points

00:46:51Drew Devore University of Minnesota Twin Cities

We are already starting the recruiting process for partners in the Fall

00:46:52Chop City

We created sport specific trainings so our athletes/partners can stay involved in the spring sports they would typically be training for. We are hoping to still have a shortened Summer Games with SOC involvement in late June at this point so we are prepping for such an event:

00:46:58Scott George - Special Olympics North America

Here is a page that has resources for SO College - from starting a student club to bringing a Unified Intramural Program to campus

00:49:04Ross Rodriguez - UT Austin

Yes, absolutely.

00:51:37Tyler Artley - UT Tyler

We are having some issues getting students excited about Unified Sports. What are some things everyone is doing to get students to buy in? We have done a Unified flag football night with free t-shirts, games, food, etc. but still struggle to get our students to buy in.

00:51:46Amy Southern Indiana

We are trying to start a unified program at Southern Indiana and do any schools have any tips on getting students involved? We are finding that students still do not know unified is and being a commuter campus it is hard to get a commitment?

00:52:06Jonathan Johnston - A&M Commerce

Same for us Tyler and also getting athletes from the area

00:53:04Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

One area thats worked for us recruiting unified partners is to email out information to our Kinesiology program administration - they then forward it on to all students in Kinesiology and thats been a bit help for us. Any programs related to Disability Students or Teachers Education has also been helpful. As long as we explain what it is and give them information to register, program coordinators have been happy to send it to all students

00:53:26Aaron Brooks - The University of Akron

Other than regular IM’s, we are on a, if it doesn’t make us money, we aren’t doing it right now

00:53:49DJ Doss - Kennesaw State

A few areas we have found success in reaching our students -- Fraternity and Sorority Life, Department Staff, and specific academic areas. We have had great success partnering with our Health and Physical Education team and students.

00:54:07Liz Belecky

getting students involved is one of our biggest struggles as well! we have found that making partnerships with other on campus clubs and greek life has helped a lot with student numbers and retention! We have a partnership with the Health and Wellness club and their members get points for coming to our events and its the same sort of system for our greek life partners!

00:54:39Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

Yes! The Polar Plunge makes our club the most money through our partners!

00:55:07Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

One thing we have done is switched the night(s) that we program unified. We originally programmed on weekends, specifically sundays. This past fall we saw a decrease in student participation for flag football. We moved our basketball league from the weekend to Wednesday nights and our unified games were the first slate of games for the night. We ended up having too many partners for the size of our league. So we're going to purse the same thing for Fall 2020

00:55:11Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

Special Olympics Ontario is currently starting up a virtual polar plunge to assist with their fundraising!

00:55:53Drew Devore University of Minnesota Twin Cities

We utilized the ESPN grant with SOMN this year

00:55:55Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

@LizBelecky...Greek Life has been a nice partnership as well

00:56:03Dan Ekonen SOMI

@drew, we've had our SO College Clubs if they are a registered organization on campus can approach their Student Government for funding and have had some success there.

00:56:43Liz Belecky

@ Tony North I agree! weeknights have always worked best for us!

00:58:07Lexxi O'Brien SO Iowa

Not all schools allow student-athletes to participate in IM's, but if you find that there are stipulations that do allow for student athletes to participate (ex: playing IM's in off seasons), we have found that helpful!

00:58:33DJ Doss - Kennesaw State

@Lexxi Same here with student athletes as well!

00:59:41Drew Devore University of Minnesota Twin Cities

I am with Tony. I have embedded Unified programming in the middle of our IM programming on Tuesday nights here at Minnesota

00:59:53Tyler Artley - UT Tyler

Our student-athlets aren't allowed to participate actively but for the events we do have a large group of them will come out to cheer on everyone playing in the game

01:00:19Lexxi O'Brien SO Iowa

We've found Therapeutic Recreation, Occupational Therapy, Adaptive Rec and other medical-related fields of study have a receptive audience of students that participate

01:00:29Drew Devore University of Minnesota Twin Cities

We have also kept the same time for every Unified sport we offer. That way we have consistency for the SO athletes

01:00:45Scott George - Special Olympics North America

Lots of schools, especially smaller schools that have a heavy student-athlete population, will look for student-athletes to be involved while they are "off-season"

01:01:00Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

@Tony North Aligning it with the IM schedule has helped our athletes at CSU really feel connected to the campus and the students!

01:01:07Caroline Ciell

It seems like a lot of Unified Programs within Campus Recreation are started/led by Sport Programs. What are some ways you have been able to get other program areas (Fitness, Facilities, Aquatics, Pro Staff etc.) on board/ involved with Unified?

01:01:17Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

We have scheduled on Sunday mornings 11am-1pm where we didn’t have a high demand for IMS programming and its seemed to work as participants have limited conflicts with other commitments

01:03:01Dan Ekonen SOMI

start small with a one day event, once students and leadership see it, they often want to get more involved! SOMI has had a number of schools start this way and it grows into league play.

01:03:23Ross Rodriguez - UT Austin

Great suggestion, @Dan

01:04:10Val Reinford - Special Olympics Virginia

How are you organizing teams to accommodate the wide ability level of athletes and partners? Do you offer different sports for different ability levels?

01:04:18Jonathan Johnston - A&M Commerce

yes having same thought @caroline ciell

01:04:22Amanda Alpert, University of Mississippi

Here is the link to starting an SO College:

01:05:06Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

For funding, we partnered with Campus Police - we had a silent auction with donations that we left in their break room and they also gave a donation on top which helped us raise around $2500! So look outside of your department and see how they can assist you with funding!

01:05:13Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

@Caroline Ciell not necessarily unified sports but we have Healthy Athletes on our campus where our School of Exercise & Rehabilitation Services partners with our local office and Rec Services to provide information and training on nutrition, fitness, etc..

01:05:46Dan Ekonen SOMI

utilize your current rec staff or students hosting Unified on their campus to reach out to their peers on other campuses to share their experience.

01:05:47Drew Devore University of Minnesota Twin Cities

@Val we are working with SOMN to help identify the skill levels of athletes. Then we have a practicescrimmage night before the start of every season to ensure we have balanced teams. If we still find there is imbalance we will adjust teams after week 1.

01:05:54Jonathan Johnston - A&M Commerce

thumps up @tony

01:06:13Liz Belecky

for different abilities we offer three courts during our IM basketball leagues to have a beginners level, intermediate and advanced courts so athletes and partners can choose where they would like to participate! However, I understand thats not always possible so you can always schedule two court times back to back and have the two teams cheer each other on!

01:06:13Mel Erdmann SOSoCAL

Interestingly, at CSU Bakersfield, the Tennis Club were the students that really helped to start Flag Football on campus. They also came out to help demonstrate Unified Tennis Doubles at one of our local competitions.

01:06:22Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

We also had an SO athlete whose father is very successful in our community so after having them in our program for a year, we approached his business for financial support

01:07:39Amanda Alpert, University of Mississippi

01:07:48Amanda Alpert, University of Mississippi

Statistics & Infographics ^

01:08:06Amanda Alpert, University of Mississippi

01:09:49Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

Does anyone have their SO athletes involved in the department as volunteers? I’d love to have them join our department at the Welcome Desk or Equipment rental but just not sure about the insurance etc. Has anyone started this yet?

01:10:39Tom Giles

I echo Jenna's question!

01:11:18DJ Doss - Kennesaw State

We are able to work with our Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth to have students work with our department in a few various areas within our department.

01:11:21Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

We have an athlete serve on our executive board for our club but would love to see how we can help get other athletes internships/jobs!

01:11:48Lexxi O'Brien SO Iowa

College Club at St. Ambrose University (in Iowa) offer bi-weekly Unified hangouts. They have gone ice skating, bowling, hosted craft nights, etc. Iowa State University college club hosted a Mario Kart night!

01:12:48Dan Ekonen SOMI

@ Mallory, does Chop or Ben have your E-board Athlete position description that they could share?

01:13:02Liz Belecky

for unified fitness on college campuses we have elected a health and wellness chair for our SO College and she is a student who is in the Health and Wellness student! She gives tips for fitness and nutrition at club meeting and events. She also works on getting water and snacks at events to keep athletes going and puts nutrition tips on them!

01:13:13Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

We partner with our Toledo Transition (T2) program to employ 1-2 Students with Disabilities each semester....they have to work as a part of their curriculum so its been a nice partnership

01:14:51Ryan Parriott - Drake University

Drake Rec Services is under Athletics. So we were able to get tickets for all our Unified athletes/partners to attend a MBB game together and hangout before our Unified Championship night. They were able to sit together close to the student section and absolutely loved it

01:15:54Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

We are looking at partnering with Athletics and having the team we are playing bring their Unified teams and have that as a “half time” show!

01:17:07Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

our athletics dept recently donated 600 ticket vouchers for a celebrity game that our local office was hosting...i think it was 600

01:18:03Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

Mal and Liz

01:18:11Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

01:18:40Thomas Lail - Syracuse University /

01:19:05Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo &

01:19:06Scott George - Special Olympics North America

Survey link - please fill out!!

01:19:12Shana Kessler

01:19:21Scott George - Special Olympics North America

Or I can email!!

01:20:24Kaitlee Francisco-Special Olympics

SO College:

01:21:39Scott George - Special Olympics North America

My email:

01:21:56Scott George - Special Olympics North America

01:22:06Teresa Amaturo SOPA SO College

01:22:31Dan Ekonen SOMI

01:22:36Jeff Hares - Montana State University

What are some problems people have run into starting a Unified league for the first time and what are some tips on how to avoid them?

01:23:30Liz Belecky

yeah we at CSU do a lot of social events and off campus gatherings! This includes holiday parties, bowling, attending professional sports games, movie nights, game nights, hiking, ect!

01:23:59Scott George - Special Olympics North America

@Jeff - email me at and we can set up a call!

01:24:10Mel Erdmann SOSoCAL

SO Southern California:

01:24:32Jeff Hares - Montana State University

Thank you Scott!

01:24:38DJ Doss - Kennesaw State

Great work to the folks leading and sharing today, appreciate the insight!

01:24:51Cecilia UW - Madison

UW Madison was supposed to host the NIRSA 7v7 soccer tournament for sport clubs and Unified teams in the Midwest this April. It unfortunately was cancelled, but we are planning to host it again next year!

01:24:56Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

@Lexxi and @Sean...thank you!

01:24:59Bryan Coffey. Special Olympics Iowa

Wanting to echo, Lexxi. The University of Iowa Unified Rowing program has certainly brought unique opportunities to our athletes and it has been incredible!

01:25:36Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

We've done kickball, dodgeball, social nights, movie nights and were going to have a player card making night before COVID-19 happened!

01:25:49Tom Giles

A topic for future discussion; Resources for officials on how to best prepare them for the unified experience!

01:25:53Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

@Scott thanks!

01:26:29Jeff Hares - Montana State University

I agree with Tom on future topics!

01:26:45Dan Ekonen SOMI

@ Tony, Jordan Leslie and Oakland worked to start Big Pink Volleyball and we had a lot of interest, but had to cancel because of COVID the day before league started.

01:26:46Liz Belecky

end of the year surveys can help gather what everyone enjoyed most!

01:27:03Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

Great idea Mitch!

01:27:28Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

@dan thank you! great idea!

01:28:07Jonathan Johnston - A&M Commerce

This was great1 Thanks everyone for sharing and thanks to Scott and Amanda for facilitating

01:28:10Scott George - Special Olympics North America

One last time the survey link or post your email in the chat!!

01:28:17Jonathan Johnston - A&M Commerce

Look forward to the next one!

01:28:19Aaron Brooks - The University of Akron

Another roundtable would be great!

01:28:20Jenna Smith - Western University, Ontario, Canada

This was awesome - my favourite roundtable so far <3 …Thanks everyone for sharing your insights and ideas! Unified is so great!!

01:28:34Kevin Linker, EIU

Thank you Scott and Everyone!

01:28:38Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

Thank @scott and @amanda for facilitating

01:28:43Matt Dunigan - UC Riverside

thanks Amanda and Scott!

01:28:48Tony North Jr - The University of Toledo

thank you everyone for sharing

01:28:49Amanda Alpert

01:28:50Leiana Swanson Long Beach State

Thank you!

01:28:54Matt Dunigan - UC Riverside

And everyone sharing their experiences!

01:28:54Dan Ekonen SOMI

Great to see everyone, thanks for all you do for the Unified movement!

01:28:55Jeff Hares - Montana State University

Thanks everyone! Got some good ideas from y’all. Appreciate it!

01:29:00Kaitlee Francisco-Special Olympics

It was great to hear from everyone today! Looking forward to connecting soon

01:29:05Mallory Gustin- Colorado State University

Thank you!!

01:29:16Bailey Adams - Central Michigan University

Thank you Amanda and Scott!

01:29:17Liz Belecky

Thank you everyone, this was super helpful! Y’all are amazing!!!

01:29:18Nathan L. (Towson U.)

Thank you for hosting!

01:29:19Sean Whitley-Special Olympics Nebraska

This was great! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

01:29:19Mike Haines (Canadore College, Ontario, Canada)

Thank you, everyone!

01:29:26Tom Giles

Thank you!

01:29:30Aaron Brooks - The University of Akron


If you have an idea or would like to facilitate an upcoming caucus or forum please email