AAASP, NFHS, NIAAA Best Practices in Adapted Team Sports


ATLANTA, GEORGIA, November 23, 2015 – The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP), the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) announced today the nationwide release of the “Best Practices In Education-Based Athletics for Students with Physical Disabilities Through Interscholastic Adapted Team Sports.” The Best Practices will better equip educators on “how to” offer extracurricular adapted team sports for students with physical disabilities, as an inclusive part of their school athletic programs, thereby extending the same benefits to “America’s Sidelined Kids” as have commonly been enjoyed by athletes without disabilities.

“This collaborative project between AAASP, the NFHS and the NIAAA comes after years of working to increase and enhance athletic opportunity for this underserved student population. In essence, it furthers the objectives of the “Dear Colleague Letter” issued in 2013 by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education regarding the schools’ obligation to include students with disabilities in athletics.” Bev Vaughn-Co-Founder, Executive Director, American Association of Adapted Sports Programs.

“We are so pleased to partner with the AAASP and the NIAAA to provide our state associations and their member schools with these ‘Best Practices’ for meeting the needs of students with physical disabilities in education–based athletics.  We believe this will promote participation, foster inclusion and better serve young people in our schools.  We look forward to continued growth in this important area of high school sports.” Bob Gardner, Executive Director, National Federation of State High School Associations

“The NIAAA strives to provide our member athletic administrators the best available resources as they administrate programs for the coaches and students in their schools. Our partnership with AAASP has provided the NIAAA with more resources to give our membership. This document is a great tool to guide athletic administrators in providing for those students athletes with physical disabilities who wish to participate in the school sports programs.” Bruce Whitehead, Executive Director, National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association

Highlights for educators within the Best Practices are:

  • How to conduct a statewide needs assessment to determine the most reasonable number and placement of programs in your state;
  • Strategies involving team formation by school district, system or cooperative rather than by individual schools in order to cast the widest possible net of opportunity, thus also reducing the cost of programming through shared resources and responsibility;
  • Components of Adapted Team Sports that address: Management, safety, transportation, equipment, coaching, and funding.

Among those praising the release of this detailed approach to developing and managing adapted sports programs in America’s schools are the American College of Sports Medicine, BlazeSports America and Hall of Fame Olympic/Paralympic athlete, Jean Driscoll.

The Best Practices document is available for download at under the Resources tab.



The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP), headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, is a not-for-profit association dedicated to developing interscholastic adapted sports programs in partnership with national, state, and local educational agencies. It represents a standardized approach to extracurricular adapted team sports and has developed one of the nation’s most comprehensive school-based athletic programs for students with physical disabilities attending grades 1-12. Rules, teaching guides and other resources for educators are free and downloadable at Join our conversations on Facebook or on Twitter at: @AdaptedSports.

About NFHS

Since 1920, The National Federation of State High School Associations has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and activities that help students succeed in their lives. We set directions for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS, from its offices in Indianapolis, Indiana, serves its 50 member state high school athletic/activity associations, plus the District of Columbia. The NFHS publishes playing rules in 16 sports for boys and girls competition and administers fine arts programs in speech, theater, debate and music. It provides a variety of program initiatives that reach the 18,500 high schools and over 11 million students involved in athletic and activity programs.


The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association preserves, enhances and promotes educational-based athletics through the professional development of interscholastic athletic administrators. As a recognized accredited educational institution committed to leadership programs, resources, and service opportunities, the Association supports the athletic administrator’s effort in providing quality athletic participation opportunities for students.


Praise for “Best Practices In Education-Based Athletics for Students with Physical Disabilities Through Interscholastic Adapted Team Sports

“This Best Practices document is the literal game-changer for adapted team sports in schools. With its release today, our future will be better informed and guided and more accessible. The Best Practices are truly that, but they also are practical and achievable. This is fundamentally important progress that will benefit schools and communities throughout the United States.” – James R. Whitehead, CEO and Executive Vice President, American College of Sports Medicine (The American College of Sports Medicine, a global association that advances and translates scientific discovery into effective practice in the many disciplines and professions of clinical sports medicine and the exercise sciences. Jim has a background in health policy. He serves in many leadership roles, including with the Inclusive Fitness Coalition, Aspen Institute’s Project Play, and the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan, all of which promote and support the importance of sports and health and its accessibility to all.)

“This is a wonderful manual that provides practical information for school districts and communities interested in starting adapted sports programs.  I really appreciated the format at the beginning of the paper presenting ‘challenges for educators’ followed by ‘best practices’ to solve these problems.  Too often papers present challenges without presenting solutions. The section on ‘components of adapted sports’ provides practical, useable information on how schools and communities can create adapted sports programs. Finally, the section on ‘needs assessment’ presents powerful information on how to create measurable evidence for starting an adapted sports program.” – Dr. Martin Block, Professor, University of Virginia. (Dr. Block is the President of the International Federation of Adapted Physical Activity (IFAPA) and Editor of the journal on physical disability and sport, Palaestra.)

“What a much needed and well crafted manual for implementing a successful adapted sports program in schools!  This powerful and clear blueprint strengthens the ability of schools and communities to partner more effectively, providing school age children with disabilities more opportunities to reap the significant benefits from participating in adapted sports.” – Cynthia Frisina, Executive Director, BlazeSports America. (BlazeSports is the official legacy program of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games.)


“Kids are kids, whether or not they have a disability. They have lots of energy and the chance to engage in sports activities can be one of the most exciting and memorable aspects of being a student in school.  How can this be done for students with disabilities? Experts in the field have collaborated and created a must-have publication, ‘Addressing Best Practices In Education-Based Athletics for Students with Physical Disabilities Through Interscholastic Adapted Team Sports.’  It is a terrific resource that provides all the necessary information for establishing and maintaining school-based adapted sports programs in a non-threatening and easy to understand format. Why is this important? Because, too few opportunities currently exist for students with disabilities.  It also makes kids happy, allows them to be active, and often changes their lives in ways they could have never imagined.  This is certainly true of my life!”Jean Driscoll, 8-time Boston Marathon Champion, Olympic and Paralympic Medalist, Olympic Hall of Fame


“This Best Practices manual provides a useful roadmap for schools expanding or establishing sport participation opportunities for student with disabilities. While the manual tracks many elements contained in the Office of Civil Rights guidance for schools and administrators, it is an easy to understand, step-by-step guide for implementation strategies.  The recommendations are based on AAASP’s years of experience in creating adapted sports programs. The manual provides specific suggestions from the initial stages of surveying parents and students to organizational structures and resources needed to sustain program offerings. The recommended best practices will assist schools and administrators seeking to provide adapted sport programs as one mechanism for meeting their legal obligations under the Section 504 to provide competitive sport and athletics opportunities for student with disabilities. Without doubt, athletic and sport participation opportunities are critical for students to achieve equal educational opportunities, and AAASP is leading national efforts to assist schools and administrators.”  Anita M. Moorman, J.D., Professor of Sport Administration, University of Louisville. (Professor Moorman teaches Sport Law and Legal Aspects of Sport. She is licensed to practice law in the State of Oklahoma. She was also admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court in 2000 when she served a co-counsel for nine disability sport organizations and prepared an amicus curiae brief in the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act case involving the disabled professional golfer, Casey Martin and the PGA Tour (Martin v. PGA Tour, Inc., 2001).