Sun Prairie High Schools are adding an Adapted Sports League (ASL) for students with special disabilities to begin its inaugural season in the fall.

“Currently, there is a lack of interscholastic sports for kids with disabilities,” Sun Prairie Adapted Physical Education Teacher Sadie Brown said. “We offer special olympics through our district, but we do not offer competitive high school level athletic sports for all kids with disabilities. Special olympics is limited to just those with cognitive or intellectual disabilities.”

The ASL provides students the opportunity they deserve to represent their school in a competitive program. Students will have increased connection and pride with their school and community. In addition, they will have the opportunity to earn a varsity letter in their participating sport.

All high school students grades 9-12 that have IEPs or 504s are eligible to participate.

“It’s going to be a variety of students with different disabilities from autism to an intellectual disability to maybe ADHD,” Brown said. “Each team will be made up of that variety. It won’t just be specific disabilities together.”

The ASL is for students who are not safe or successful with nondisabled peers in general interscholastic athletic programs. It is for students that can safely participate and also be independent.

“We will have volunteers and coaches supporting, but they will have to be mostly independent,” Brown said.

The coaches will include special education teachers and other staff members, paraeducators, teacher assistants and high school and college student volunteers. “This (coaches) can be anyone that has the motivation to help out our student athletes and make sure they are getting the best program that they can possibly have,” Adapted Physical Education Teacher Ellyn Presto said.

Brown and Presto are founders of the Sun Prairie ASL. Together, they have two decades of experience serving students K-12 in the school district.

The ASL will model their sports and seasons after the Minnesota Association for Adapted Athletics. This includes three sports: soccer (September-October), floor hockey (January-February) and wiffle ball (April-May). These sports were chosen because they have simple and easy to understand concepts and rules.

“They will be all indoor sports just to accommodate for weather, for wheelchair users and for injuries,” Brown said. “It’s going to help make it easier and more accessible for everybody.”

Practices will occur twice a week for 60-90 minutes after school. Teams will play 6-8 games in a season. Coaches will do their best to evenly match the skill of players when able. To start, the two Sun Prairie High Schools will play each other.

“The coach from East and the coach from West will try to match similar types of players so the competition is there and so we can have people cheering loud,” Presto said.

The long term goal is to help other Big 8 teams and nearby school districts develop their programs to create more competition. The MAAA has this program for all of their high schools and they have state competitions.

“We are hoping we can get other Big 8 schools and surrounding schools in the area to join us,” Brown said. “We can start making sure it is WIAA regulated and then it becomes a true sport and we can host state tournaments.”

On May 7, there was a kickoff event to learn more about the adapted leagues. There were stations set up for students to practice their skills.

“Our May kickoff event was awesome. “We had a good turnout of different families that came in,” Presto said. “We had volunteers from our football program, hockey program and NHS providing a fun environment.”

They are anticipating around 30 students to sign up between the two high schools. They are looking for two coaches at each high school. These are paid positions funded by the athletic department.

“Our next steps are to hire coaches, especially for the fall,” Brown said. “We have our jersey’s ready, made with elite. We just have to order them and make sure we have enough established volunteers.”

The jerseys and equipment are coming out of the athletic funds.

“Our athletic department supported our start-up costs,” Presto said. “We also received a $12,000 grant from the Sun Prairie Education Foundation.”

The school district and athletic department has been on board with the Brown and Presto every step of the way.

“They see it as a need for our district,” Presto said.

Brown and Presto also plan to work with teachers and students to establish referees, as well as start a booster club with volunteer parents.