Unified Sports Fosters Friendship and Understanding

Team sports bring people together. Unified Sports brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.

An example of such friendship and understanding is athlete Syvel Lowery and partner Simon Kinzler of Bozeman High School. The duo has been playing unified sports together for four years and partner for soccer, skiing, bowling, and basketball.

Syvel, a “super senior” this year, has been involved with Special Olympics since fifth grade and is currently a member of the Bozeman Yetis. “Special Olympics has taught me to be nice and not be too
aggressive. I’ve taught myself work ethic and working hard.”
Simon, a high school senior, was inspired by his older brother who was a Unified partner during his final two years of high school. Simon gave it a try his freshmen year and has been involved ever since.

“There is this thing called Partner Club that I decided to give a try. It’s our Special Olympics Unified club. I started attending basketball
practice and got hooked on it, then joined soccer and skiing. I’ve been doing as much as I can throughout my high school experience.”

Currently the two are practicing for the 2022 State Basketball Tournament to be held in Butte November 10-12. At 6’4” Syvel is a force on the court and has the confidence to match. He says he likes playing offense and defense equally, but a bit more conversation unveils a preference for offense. “I like shooting layups
and to assist.”

When asked if he or his partner, Simon, was the better ball handler, Syvel’s response was, “Me, all the way!” 

Simon believes Syvel is a multifaceted player, “Syvel’s a swiss army knife type of a player—he’s good everywhere. He’s all-round better than me at basketball,” to which Syvel
replied, “You need confidence man,” with a slap on the shoulder.

For Simon, the best part of Unified sports is being able
to play with Special Olympics athletes.

“It’s so great because everyone is there to have fun but everyone works hard too. It can be tough, but they work hard, push themselves and get a lot better. It’s a lot of fun to not just watch or coach, but be a part of it.”

Simon encourages other students—in Bozeman and beyond—to check out the opportunities with Unified Sports. “Just do it. Go, and I think you’ll like it a lot. It’s pretty awesome and I think everyone should try it. It will teach you a lot and give you incredible experiences.“

While Syvel has a few state tournaments under his belt, this tournament will be Simon’s first. Syvel has some advice for Simon about the tournament, “You need to be confident, work hard, be aggressive—but not real aggressive—and then, believe in yourself.”

Syvel and Simon will join an estimated 700 athletes and Unified partners from across Montana at the State Basketball Tournament in Butte this November.

The below video explains what Special Olympics Unified Sports® is. Unified Sports is a unique programming bringing people with and without intellectual disabilities together through sports. Get to know the most important facts about Unified Sports®, the Three Unified Sports® Models, the core principles and where it can happen.