By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Special Olympics Pennsylvania held its third annual Elementary/Middle School IUS Bocce Championship Tuesday at Jefferson University.

For these athletes, nothing beats bocce.

“It’s more fun than basketball or football,” said one student. “And more fun than baseball, and hockey,” another student added.

This tournament brings together students with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same team to train and compete together.

Philadelphia’s Interscholastic Unified Sports program, or IUS, says this model allows students a chance to create real friendships that extend beyond sports and create a more inclusive school culture.

“It’s a life changer for our kids,” said Betty Ann Creighton.

She is the Philadelphia School District’s executive director of Health, Safety, Nutrition and Physical Education.

“We have had the mentors, the partners actually say that when they go on to college they’re going to go for special education,” she said. “That just makes me cry.”

Fifteen teams from three elementary schools and five middle schools have been practicing for at least eight weeks for a chance to compete, while having fun in the process.