Group of students standing and sitting in front of bowling lanes

Unified bowling promotes social inclusion through sports


Posted: Nov 10, 2023 / 08:38 PM CST

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A few years ago, the Kansas State High School Activities Association partnered with the Kansas Special Olympics to create a new sport in the state.

Unified bowling pairs Special Olympic athletes with fellow students without intellectual disabilities. The purpose is to build new friendships and encourage inclusion.

There are five bowlers on a unified team. There must be at least two Special Olympic athletes and one partner bowler. There are 47 Kansas high schools that offer unified bowling.

Bowling is for just about everyone. It’s all about throwing the rock down the lane, socializing, and being on a team.

“The team is a big thing because it helps the students feel like part of a team because a lot of times they’re isolated at school and being in special education classes. So, this gets them to know students outside of the classroom,” said Hutchinson Unified Head Coach Megan Doyle.

Doyle is also a special education teacher.

“Most of the kids on the team, I have every day in class,” said Doyle.

The Salthawks hosted an 11-team state regional. The top-five highest-scoring teams advanced to state.

“I think we did great. We did better than usual. I think it’s the best we could’ve done,” said Eisenhower FR Unified Bowler Alexander Williams.

This is the first year Williams has represented his school in a sport.

“It feels good. It feels amazing,” said Williams.

It’s also the first time Great Bend’s Keaton Wahlmeier has been part of a team.

“It’s been great. I’ve never met these people. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know them more,” said Wahlmeier.

“It’s a lot of fun. I love bowling. This has been great helping other people. Getting people who don’t have much experience,” said Great Bend SO Unified Bowler Zoey Mayberry.

“For me, it feels like fun, you know. I’ve never been on a team before,” said Hutchinson SO Unified Bowler Michael Briggs.

“I’ve been here since it started. It’s a lot of fun. being able to meet the people on this team and the people who were off and on this team. I’ve made quite a few new friends,” said Hutchinson SO Unified Bowler Perrin McDaniel.

And it’s rewarding for the coaches too.

“It really is. It is what I like to call my happy place. Every day we have practice or these meets. Even if I had a really bad day at school, coming here and seeing the joy and happiness through all the teams. It’s great,” said Doyle.

The five teams that advanced to state are Great Bend, Liberal, Salina South, Garden City, and the regional champion: Eisenhower Tigers.

The top five teams from the four regionals will compete in next week’s state meet in Topeka.

For more information:

Follow Hutchinson Salthawks Unified Bowling on Facebook.