Inspiring Inclusion with a Unified Sports Day

Want to see the power of Unified Sports first-hand? Try a Unified Sports Day.

At these one-of-a-kind events, athletes of all ages with and without disabilities meet each other and practice athletic activities. Unified Sports Days bring communities together and introduce them to our amazing offerings. Think of it like an appetizer before the main course.

But what exactly happens at these events? In this article, we’ll take you behind the scenes at a Unified Sports Day with Schenectady High School.


Unified is a competition or athletic experience in which people with and without disabilities compete on the same playing fields. Through Unified Sports, athletes break down social barriers and build up inclusive relationships.

Unified is thriving throughout New York State, especially in the Capital District Region. Numerous local schools have Unified programs, and three have earned the coveted National Banner Status. Others, like Schenectady High School, wish to build programs of their own.

Inspired by Guilderland and Amsterdam, Schenectady asked for an introduction to Unified. That’s where we came in.

Schenectady’s Unified Sports Day

With the help of volunteers, our staff hosted a Unified Sports Day at Schenectady High School. We offered several skill stations focused on four sports: soccer, softball, track & field, and bocce. Each station was designed to improve basic skills for the sports they represented.

For example, at our track & field station, athletes walked in straight lines with beanbags balanced on their heads. Not only was this a fun challenge—it encouraged the consistent, upright posture that supports strong running. From there, athletes progressed to more advanced skills, such as the javelin throw.

“It was a good event because it brought all 11 of our elementary buildings together into one school community event,” said Matt Ronca, Assistant Director of Physical Education & Health for Schenectady City School District. “Also, it was another opportunity for our special education students to have fun while being physically active and using some of the skills and knowledge they learned in Physical Education.”

In addition to high schoolers, Schenectady HS’s Unified Sports Day offered activities for Young Athletes. Designed for children with and without disabilities ages two through seven, Young Athletes emulates the procedure of our Unified Sports Day stations. Participants build technique by practicing sport-related skills, thereby preparing them for competitions when they’re old enough to join.

By bringing together Young Athletes and high schoolers, our Unified Sports Day exemplifies the breadth of our programming. “We’re showcasing what our programs are and what they can do,” said Leigh Howard, Director of Program, Unified Sports. “We want to serve what these communities need.”

How Can Your School Become Unified?

Though Unified Sports Days are amazing events, Unified itself isn’t a one-off experience—it’s a partnership. Our goal with these events is to introduce our programs, then use them as springboards for building inclusive communities.

If you want your community to play Unified, please email lhoward@nyso.org and we’ll be in touch.