Partnership between UTSA Campus Rec and Special Olympics Texas to continue

Christina Troy, Copyediting Coordinator

Perry McLaurin
The UTSA campus recreation and wellness center and the Special Olympics partnership will continue to live on despite the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perry (15) and Kyle (50) are pictured with their team.

As part of Special Olympics International’s The Revolution is Inclusion campaign, which aims to end the discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities, UTSA Campus Recreation partnered with Special Olympics Texas in February to create a Unified Sports basketball league.

[Unified Sports], and other Unified Programs, bring together individuals with and without intellectual disabilities to train and compete on the same team,” Jalen Lewis, the San Antonio area program director for Special Olympics Texas, said.

UTSA students, who were employees at the Recreation Center (Rec), a part of on-campus clubs, or just consistent players in intramural leagues, joined with athletes from Special Olympics Texas to create the teams that played in the Unified Sports league. The games were hosted at the Rec on Sunday evenings.

Due to UTSA ceasing operations because of COVID-19, only a few games were played before the league had to be canceled for the semester. 

“It’s a bummer to have the league canceled early,” Lewis said. “However some things are simply out of our control.”

Perry McLaurin and Kyle Schafer are two Special Olympics athletes that participated in the Unified Sports basketball league at UTSA. 

“Working as a team and encouragement” was McLaurin’s favorite part of the league. McLaurin gave an example of the encouragement he received from UTSA students.

“Every time, like, we make a shot, it was like, ‘Good job,’ and, you know, it was sportsmanship,” McLaurin said.

However, the league was not free from the banter typical of basketball games.

“I was always making a lot of three pointers, and [a UTSA student] was telling me that I wouldn’t make any more until I shut him down,” McLaurin said.

Schafer’s favorite part of the league was “Having friends … to play with.”

While Schafer benefited from the league by having friends to play basketball with, he also thinks he taught the UTSA students he played with “to work as a team.”

Schafer and McLaurin typically play on the same team for Special Olympics practices, but for the Unified Sports league, they went head to head.

“I like it when [Kyle and I play on] opposite teams, like opposite competition, instead of being together,” McLaurin said. “We’re good at three pointers, so we like to have, you know, compete against each other. Me and Kyle together will, like, dominate people.” 

Playing on opposite teams spurs competitiveness between Schafer and McLaurin. 

“[Kyle’s team was] winning, and we came back and won. Let’s put it that way,” McLaurin said about one of his favorite memories from the league. “It’s true. I was making three pointers left and right.”

When asked how he responds to McLaurin’s “smack talk,” Schafer said it’s “not for the school paper.”

Senior Associate Director of Programs and Assessment of UTSA’s Campus Recreation Andrew Chadick commented on the continuation of the Unified Sports league. 

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with Special Olympics Texas as soon as we can,” Chadick said.

Both Schafer and McLaurin plan to compete in the Unified Sports League again when UTSA resumes operations, presumably in the Fall semester, though the sport will likely not be basketball.

“Being that it’ll be the fall semester once the Unified League starts up again we will most likely have a different sport for the fall,” Lewis said.

UTSA students are welcome to get involved in the Unified Sports Leagues once they resume.

“Students interested in participating in our Unified Leagues, or any of our other Intramural Sports leagues, can contact Michael Castaneda ([email protected]) or Cy Fondal ([email protected]) for more information,” Chadick said.