In the German language, the word “schnee” translates to “snow.” For Unified volleyball partners and sisters Megan and Jamie Schnee, the surname is most apt for their dynamic on and off the court. As different as they can be, they are each other’s best setter.
“Usually it’s fire and ice,” explained Jamie, the older sister by four years. “I’m typically ice and Megan is fire. It kind of switches… Sometimes Megan can bring a perspective that I don’t consider and vice versa. We just relate to each other and talk to one another.”
Returning to their German heritage, Megan and Jamie will represent Special Olympics USA as Unified partners in volleyball, competing in the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. Coached by their mom, Kim Schnee, Megan and Jamie were introduced to the Special Olympics movement long before they could spike a volleyball.
“I guess my earliest memory of Special Olympics is going to track practices,” recalled Jamie. “She would have us go find the lines, set up the cones or carry the equipment.” Megan added, “We’re talking like at 4 or 5 years old.”
Since the start of her involvement, Kim Schnee has only missed two state-level events, one the year that Jamie was born and one the year that Megan was born. Later in their childhood, their mom would initiate the volleyball program for Special Olympics Kansas in Manhattan, Kansas. At the time, she was a member of the board of directors for Special Olympics Kansas and insisted volleyball be incorporated as a sport. Years later, they would lead the inaugural Unified volleyball team for the state.
“She told them, ‘I think we should do volleyball,’” explained Megan. “So, I went to practice and, in eighth grade, she had me coming up with drills and creating teams.”
Jamie and Megan, taking after their mother, are both certified in multiple sports as Special Olympics coaches. In 2019, Jamie would attend the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi as an athletics coach. Now attending this Special Olympics World Games as a family unit, Jamie and Megan will exemplify the impact of Unified Sports® alongside their teammates. Through Unified Sports, individuals with and without intellectual disabilities join together on the same teams.
“I feel we have the same vision,” said Megan. “We have the same idea of what it means to be unified, not just on court or a field, it’s just life. That is how we all operate… I think for us it’s more than just sports, it’s like a whole family. That is how we operate with our team. They are all our family. This is everything to us really, this is our life.”
A tribute to that vision, Megan was recognized as the Special Olympics Kansas Unified Partner of the Year in 2022. But ask the Schnee sisters and it’s about much more than being a Unified partner, it’s about being a good friend and an integral part of the lives of Special Olympics athletes. In addition to their scheduled practices as a Unified team, they all compete in a co-recreational league through Manhattan Parks and Recreation. Growing as a team has only amplified the bond they share as siblings.
“I would say Special Olympics has made us closer and has changed our dynamic in some ways,” said Jamie. “Sometimes, Megan will ask if I want to go shopping with her and I’ll say, ‘Absolutely not.’ If she asks if I want to go hit or practice spiking, I’ll say, ‘Absolutely.’ It’s a different opportunity to get to know each other.”
Serving their fiery rapport on the court in Berlin, the Schnee siblings will exhibit the united front they share with each other and the family they have found in Special Olympics.