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Soccer Unity Project & Special Olympics are building a more inclusive model of youth soccer

Beginning in the Fall of 2023, Soccer Unity Project and Special Olympics of MA established a powerful partnership to bring soccer back to its roots and increase inclusive sport opportunities in Boston. Despite the financial and logistical barriers to participation, soccer is a sport for all. Understanding the power of sport and sharing in the value of inclusion, Soccer Unity Project and Special Olympics launched Unified Soccer in Boston’s South End and Roxbury neighborhoods.

Group photo of soccer players and coaches
Group photo of Special Olympics athletes, Soccer Unity Project staff and coaches, and Boston PAL members

Unified Sport brings together individuals with and without intellectual disabilities in a shared athletic experience. The idea behind Unified Sport is that, when players are united as teammates on the pitch, they can build friendship and compassion. According to data from The Aspen Institute, only 18% of youth with disabilities meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity on a regular basis (Project Play, 2022).  The partnership between Soccer Unity Project and Special Olympics of MA emerged from a drive and desire to change this narrative. 

Just 18% of youth with disabilities participated in 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

-Aspen Institute, Project Play

The program kicked off last Fall, with free weekly Saturday clinics and games at Rotch Field. Then, this past Winter, we hosted free weekly clinics and training sessions with Soccer Unity Project athletes, Special Olympics athletes, and the Boston Police Activities League at The Dewitt Center in Roxbury. 

Stephen Basden Jr., Director of Inclusive City Initiatives, spoke on the value of the partnership: “Soccer Unity has been an incredible partner to Special Olympics MA. From ideas, to facilities, to resources, and more, they have remained consistent in not only their investment, but also their dedication to help us provide quality programming to athletes with intellectual disability.” 

Our partnership is breaking down barriers and creating safe spaces for youth to engage in sport. We’re excited to continue Unified Soccer clinics this Spring and Summer, building upon our initial success and vision for a more inclusive soccer environment.

“As an organization that is constantly operating under the northern star of access and inclusion, having a partner like Soccer Unity is truly invaluable. Their dedication and investment into creating sport opportunities for athletes of all levels, has greatly impacted Special Olympics athletes and families across the city.”

-Stephen Basden, Jr., Director of Inclusive City Initiatives

players and coaches cheer

A special thank you goes out to those who have supported this partership, including Walter Scott, The Dewitt Center, Boston PAL, and Boston Parks & Rec.


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