Ahead of World Esports Day, Special Olympics North America and PlayVS Are Proud to Celebrate the Adoption of Unified Esports Competition Into More Than Half of Special Olympics Programs Nationwide
Starting this Fall Season, Special Olympics Programs in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee Join PlayVS’ Unified Esports League, Expanding Access to Inclusive Scholastic Competitive Gaming
LOS ANGELES, CA — October 19, 2023 — PlayVS, the leading amateur esports platform and operator of official state high school esports leagues across the United States, today announced the expansion of the joint Special Olympics North America’s Unified esports league with the addition of Special Olympics Programs in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The addition of these three states brings esports adoption with Special Olympics to over half the country, with 28 states choosing to compete in just two short years of partnership. Since 2021, PlayVS has served as the official operator for the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® national high school esports league in the U.S.
PlayVS will offer Unified Champion Schools in all three states the ability to compete for free in Unified esports competition, furthering PlayVS’ and Special Olympics North America’s joint mission of making esports more inclusive and accessible to high school students. The innovative collaboration combines students with intellectual disabilities (Special Olympics athletes) and students without intellectual disabilities (Unified partners) on inclusive esports teams. PlayVS operates an ongoing official partnership with Special Olympics North America, with both parties championing the notion that students everywhere should have access to the community, camaraderie and competition that scholastic esports provide.
The news comes ahead of World Esports Day on October 21, bringing increased esports access to students across the country. World Esports Day is an international celebration of esports, created with the goal of increasing awareness of the positives of esports while raising money for charities around the world. With the addition of Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, PlayVS has tripled its Unified league participation since the inception of its partnership with Special Olympics North America. This fall, over 300 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners will participate in the league as the popularity of the sport continues to rapidly grow. When it comes to high school students broadly, PlayVS found that 45% of surveyed players said that PlayVS was their first experience participating in an extracurricular activity. The expansion of PlayVS’ work with Special Olympics North America is a further testament that esports lower the barrier to entry for students wanting to participate in extracurricular activities.
“I’m thrilled to be able to continue the important work that we at PlayVS are doing with Special Olympics North America,” said Jon Chapman, CEO, PlayVS. “At PlayVS, we’re dedicated to getting esports into the hands of as many students as possible. Special Olympics North America is a key partner in making that mission a reality, and we’re incredibly excited to welcome Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee into our Unified esports league. Together, we’re extending the many benefits that esports has to offer to those who are most passionate about inclusive student engagement.”
Social inclusion stands as a paramount concern for PlayVS. In welcoming these three additional states into the Special Olympics Unified league, PlayVS is facilitating new skill development, leadership opportunities, and social growth for a new student community. As a leader in the scholastic esports space, PlayVS is proud to extend its Unified league without imposing any financial burden on participating Unified Champion Schools, offering technical support and hardware as needed. As a result, they’ll work in lockstep with the objectives of Unified Champion Schools, which aims to offer inclusive sports, activities, and youth leadership prospects to students of all abilities throughout its network of partnered schools across the country.
“Esports is able to offer all students, regardless of their background, the opportunity to join a team sport. Beyond that, it provides a platform to show the world their talent while affording students the chance to be awarded scholarships that fuel a brighter future. Adding a Unified Sports team is the foundation of that belief: all students should have a stage to excel, display their skills, and participate in a team, forging lasting memories while paving the way for a more promising future,” said Russ Wright, Head Coach, Lake County High School in Tiptonville, TN.
PlayVS and Special Olympics North America have run successful Unified leagues since the inception of their partnership, in which schools participate in Rocket League and Mario Kart 8 ™ Deluxe competitions across their states. The Special Olympics Unified league is currently available for Unified Champion Schools in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.
For more information on the Special Olympics Unified PlayVS Leagues, please visit https://www.playvs.com/so-unified.
PlayVS (pronounced Play Versus) is North America's leading high school esports platform. We are a single community where players come together to compete, fans gather to spectate, and coaches manage their programs. The company is the official high school esports partner to the NFHS Network, the Special Olympics, and state and regional organizations in the U.S. and Canada to offer officially sanctioned high school esports leagues. To learn more about PlayVS, visit https://playvs.com/
ABOUT SPECIAL OLYMPICS UNIFIED CHAMPION SCHOOLS®
Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® is a strategy in more than 8,300 schools Pre-K through university across the U.S. that intentionally promotes social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement. The three-component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with the knowledge, skills, tools and training to create classrooms and school climates of acceptance, respect, and meaningful inclusion. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in -- and feel a part of -- all activities, opportunities, and functions. The Unified Champion Schools program is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. Engage with us on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Learn more at GenerationUnified.org.
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