3 keys to starting your district’s adapted sports league

High school students with disabilities will play soccer, floor hockey and Wiffle ball in Oshkosh Area School District this fall
By: | April 6, 2021

When adapted physical education specialist Korey Kleinhans first broached the idea of starting an adapted sports league in Wisconsin’s Oshkosh Area School District four years ago, the special education director immediately expressed interest.

For the next two years, Kleinhans would tell people, “This will happen. I need a few years to raise money to get proper equipment.”

Adapted physical education is, generally, developmental games, sports, or similar activities designed for students whose disabilities prevent safe or successful participation in regular physical education. Under Section 504, students must have an equal opportunity to participate in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, including PE and athletics.

The adapted sports league in the Oshkosh Area School District will start this fall, allowing high school students with disabilities to participate in soccer, floor hockey and Wiffle ball. Special education directors can follow these steps if starting an adapted sports league is something they might consider in their own districts.

How to raise funds

First, Kleinhans had to present the special education director a budget.

Originally, he planned to purchase equipment and pay coaches with funds from either the special education budget or the athletic budget. Instead, he ended up writing grants.

“They’re faster than trying to raise funds from scratch,” he said. “When writing grants for special education, most of the time people are pretty generous with giving the full amount we request.”

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In the past two to three years, Kleinhans has raised $18,000 for two high school teams.

Where to get equipment

Kleinhans did not purchase all the equipment needed to get the teams up and running. “We used the soccer balls from the physical education department,” he said. “We have Wiffle Ball equipment through the fire department.”

He did buy indoor borders to go around the basketball court from wall to wall. The barriers, which were originally designed for roller hockey, prevent the ball from rolling out of bounds. Instead, to get a ball out of bounds, a player would have to pick it up and throw it over.

The borders were expensive but can be used for soccer or floor hockey, two out of the three sports the league will play, Kleinhans said.

Additionally, Kleinhans purchased 50 hockey helmets and gear for the goalies.

How to garner parent support

“You need the parent support in order to make these programs possible,” Kleinhans said. During his first year, he didn’t talk about the potential league much with parents. However, as time went on he realized that talking to people face-to-face and word of mouth were getting him the most connections.

As the Special Olympics coordinator, Kleinhans would talk to a lot of sixth- and seventh-grade parents, who in turn would go to their school administrators and say, “Once my kid gets to be a freshman, this is something we want in place.”

Having parents back him up by pushing the program to administration was extremely helpful, Kleinhans said. “Once they start talking to the administration, that’s when the ball gets rolling,” he said.

Florence Simmons covers Section 504, paraprofessionals, and transportation for LRP Publications.