(ABC4) – Athletes of all ages and abilities are invited to take part in a free Unified Cheer Clinic to celebrate Utah Special Olympics offering competitive cheer as an official sport for the first time.
“We would love to have pretty much everybody who was interested in cheer, with or without intellectual disability, to come and participate and be a part of the event,” Ulbby Dyson, sport director for Cheer at Utah Special Olympics, tells ABC4.com.
The clinic will take place on Saturday, Aug. 28 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Forever Athletics in West Jordan and is open to athletes ages three and up.
Unified Cheer brings athletes with and without intellectual disabilities onto the same team to compete and perform together.
Photos courtesy of Utah Special Olympics
Coaches with experience working with athletes with intellectual disabilities, as well as volunteers from the community with dance and cheer backgrounds, will mentor the athletes.
Dyson says it is important to allow athletes with disabilities to take part in cheer.
“I think to really bring so much confidence and to be able to get out in the public, to get the crowd excited, and to have that enthusiasm about participating…,” she says. “They get to go out and cheer at track meets. We’ve been invited to youth football games. We want them to be able to experience that and then possibly take it to the next level and compete as well if that’s something that they desire to do later on.”
Participating athletes can look forward to learning skills in dance and cheer, as well as chants and tumbling at the clinic if they choose. Coaches will perform demonstrations and teach safety aspects of the sport, Dyson states.
She says there are different protocols that those hosting the clinic will use depending on the athlete’s abilities. Athletes do not need prior experience to participate.
“There isn’t a restriction, because they can do sideline cheer. It’s open, and there are so many opportunities for any athlete that wishes to see what it’s like to cheer,” she shares.
“So they definitely have that ability of if they’re wanting to do the sideline and they want to do poms and learn cheers, if they’re wanting to learn a stunt, if they’re wanting to learn tumbling, that is a possibility,” Dyson continues.” We work closely with their parents, their staff, and look into their restrictions to see if they’re able to do and accommodate those.”
She says some athletes have been wanting to do cheer their whole lives but haven’t necessarily had the opportunity until now.
“I think it’s a good step forward with a couple of things: with Utah Special Olympics actually bringing that to light and allowing cheer to be a sport this year under their umbrella, I think it’s wonderful. But also with Special Olympics actually now recognizing the sport. I definitely think that those are the things that will kind of bring this all together, and it is going to be an amazing experience,” she says.
Those who wish to continue practicing the sport after the clinic can join Utah Special Olympics cheer teams, which are located in Draper and West Jordan. With both teams located in Salt Lake County, the organization is currently looking to expand and create teams in other counties as well, Dyson says.
As the sport director for cheer with Utah Special Olympics, Dyson is the person to contact to start up a team in other areas.
“I’ll be able to help them get that started and guide them through seeing if we can find a facility that would be able to host them, just the steps of getting that going,” she says. Those who are interested should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dyson says Utah Special Olympics is offering a non-competitive sideline cheer team, as well as a competitive cheer team, which she hopes will eventually be able to represent Team USA at the ICU World Cheerleading Championships.
She says it’s a great time for athletes of all abilities to cheer the world on with everything that is going on.
“It’s great to have those interactions so that the stereotypes and stuff that normally are pursued go away and they can see that kids work together. I am so excited. You have no idea,” she says.
Special Olympics Utah will also be holding a coach training for those who have ever been interested in coaching for Special Olympics.
Additionally, several companies are sponsoring the event, including Forever Athletics, Rebel Athletic, Jamz Cheer and Dance, GlitterStarz, Inc., and Youth Cheer & Dance Alliance.
Those who are interested in signing up can scan the QR code on the event flyer or send an email to email@example.com to receive a Google link to register.