Yukon, Mustang pilot program pairs Special Olympics with HS sports

Yukon and Mustang are two of six schools in Oklahoma piloting a program that has Special Olympics volleyball players being partnered with players from the high school team. Photo / Terry Groover

The cheers were the loudest Thursday when either team scored. It didn’t matter whether it was the Yukon Millers’ volleyball squad or the squad from Mustang.
The normal, natural rivalry between the two towns was forgotten, at least for the 45 minutes the players were on the court.
This was not your normal game. It was special.
Yukon and Mustang are two of six schools in Oklahoma that are piloting a program that has Special Olympic volleyball players being partnered with players from the high school team.
Yukon High School is one of a handful of schools across the state that is a certified unified school, which means special needs students work closely with other students in the school.
John Seals, the area special services and sports director for Special Olympics, said this is a unique program.
“This is the first time we have ever partnered with the OSSAA (Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association),” he said.
There are three teams on the west side of the state and three on the east side.
They play in round-robin format.
The two top teams from each side will meet for a state volleyball championship game in between the title games for the 5A and 6A title games later this month.
“It is a really cool thing,” Seals said.
Yukon’s team even traveled to the game with the varsity squad.
“It may be the first regular sports event some of these kids have ever gotten to do,” he said.
The benefits of the program are two-sided. It gives the Special Olympic athletes credibility at schools, and it gives the partners an opportunity to learn from the Special Olympic athletes.
“It immediately gives our kids creditability at school. They are no longer the special-ed kid. Now, they are Bobby or Joey,” he said.
“The partners, suddenly they know them, and they have an identity. They become friends.”
In addition, besides the coaches for the team, Yukon’s head volleyball coach, Rachel Allred, also is helping.
“We have great coaches,” Seals said. “It’s perfect. I hope this grows and grows and grows to where we start adding other sports besides just volleyball.”
Besides Yukon and Mustang, the other teams are Putnam City, Pryor, Jay and Catoosa.
For the record, Yukon won the match against Mustang 2-0. They were to play Putnam City on Tuesday.

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