Former NBA star and England basketball international, John Amaechi OBE, returned to the basketball court recently to launch a sports programme that offers people with learning disabilities the opportunity to play sport in the same team as those without learning disabilities. The Unified Sports programme, which is run by the charity Special Olympics Great Britain and supported by Coca-Cola Great Britain, will see a series of coaching and competition sessions covering a variety of sports delivered through sport centres, clubs and communities across the country.
Special Olympics GB is the country’s largest sports training and competition programme for people with learning disabilities of all abilities. Basketball is one of the sports that will be supported through the Unified Sports programme, along with volleyball, table tennis, tennis and sailing. The initiative builds on the success of Special Olympics GB’s Unified Football programme.
Amaechi said: “Unified Sports programmes will play a valuable role in breaking down the barriers to sport that exist for people with learning disabilities enabling them to compete in popular sports on the same team as those without learning disabilities; and in an environment that promotes equality and inclusion. With such a great range of sports to choose from now everyone can get involved.”
Karen Wallin, CEO of Special Olympics GB, said: “With such an exciting year of sport ahead, young people around the country are being inspired to take up new sports, but for the 1.2 million people in the UK with learning disabilities it’s not always easy to take part as they can often encounter exclusion and discrimination. The model of Unified Sports – bringing together athletes with and without learning disabilities – has been proven to overcome these difficulties and promote social inclusion. With many team sports to choose from, the Unified Sports programme will offer fun and fitness for thousands more people.”