Celebrating inclusivity with Minnesota’s adapted sports tournaments

Our June issue includes a story about Minnesota’s adapted sports spring tournaments, for softball teams and bowlers. The final sports […]

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Our June issue includes a story about Minnesota’s adapted sports spring tournaments, for softball teams and bowlers. The final sports competition, track and field, will get the spotlight in July.

I always enjoy our ability to share those stories and put a spotlight on young athletes. And the pictures of the tournaments are so fun to browse through.

Adapted prep sports have some roots in efforts by Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools. We still have some of those first athletes among us although they may qualify for senior games today.

The need to offer such an extracurricular option quickly spread across the state. Prep athletes with disabilities deserved and still deserve the chance to compete, have a team experience and to earn a sports letter.

The tournaments are organized by the Minnesota State High School League. Minnesota was one of the first states to offer adapted prep sports, have organized seasons for teams and to hold tournaments. In team sports teams compete all season and then qualify and are seeded or ranked for state competition.

If you have never gone to an adapted sports tournament, I’d urge you to consider attending one during the 2024-2025 school year. I’d also urge you to learn about how each sport is adapted before attending a tournament or as regular season game, so it’s easier to follow along.

The tournaments are high-energy and lots of fun. The athletes, parents and other sports fans really enjoy themselves. The officials are professional and treat the young athletes with courtesy and respect, but also as athletes.

You can head home feeling good about the young athletes and what they have accomplished.

I always get a kick out of the team names. We have birds – Robins and Hawks. We have Blazing Cats and the more traditional feline name of Tigers.

In team sports divisions are offered for athletes with what are described as “cognitive impairments” or CI. Athletes with physical disabilities compete in the “physical impairments’ or PI division. Bowling has a third division for athletes on the autism spectrum, labeled “autism spectrum disorder.

If I had one wish for our adapted prep sports, it would be for some wording tweaks. I would like the high school league to drop the word “impairments’ from the division name and use the word “disabilities” instead. Maybe abbreviations could be changed to CD and PD, although other suggestions would likely be welcomed.

And as a person living with autism, I’d love to see the word “disorder” not used. Looking back on my career and life in general, I know I was denied opportunities because of my disabilities including autism. I dislike the connotations of the word disorder. ASD is an official and recognized name and acronym but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And calling it a “disorder” brings negative connotation for me and for others who just want the same opportunities.

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