My name is Azur Ewari, and I am a Unified Partner on the Rapids Special Olympics Unified Soccer team. Last night, had a pizza party where we had the opportunity to meet some of the people on the Dallas team. At first people were a little hesitant to mingle but then Sam, our captain, decided to break the ice and sat at the other team’s table and everyone else just sort of followed his example.
When we were finished with pizza we went to the Nuggets practice court and shot some hoops there for a little bit. Then we played some mini games of basketball and soccer where we mixed teams so that both had Colorado and Texas players. It was a lot of fun and it was nice to get to know some of the people on the other team.
This is my first year on the Rapids Unified team. Meeting new people has been the best by far. My teammates, our coaches, the Rapids players, and the people that run the program – everyone has been very nice in welcoming us on the team. The biggest thing that I have learned is not to be shy and to not be afraid to meet new people and try new things.
Saturday night will be very exciting when we play following the Rapids vs. FC Dallas game. I am most looking forward to showing what we have learned and playing another team.
My name is Sam Villela and I play on the Rapids Special Olympics Unified soccer team. I've learned a lot since we started playing together. I've improved my defense, but also my offense. I like defense better, but it is important that I learn both to play on this team. The best part of playing with this group is practicing teamwork.
Monday at practice, we scrimmaged some of the coaches and staff, including Rapids players Drew Moor, Chris Klute and Matt Pickens. It was a good experience to play with professionals because it helped us to play even better. It helps us know that even if the team we face is older or more experienced than us, we can still compete.
At halftime of the scrimmage, my coaches announced that I would be the team captain. Drew Moor, who is the captain of the Rapids, gave me a captain arm band. I was shocked and happy at the same time. It has been a long time since I have been a leader of a group and I'm excited. I will tell my team to work hard and be professional. Even if we lose, we are still a team and we are still winners.
I'm excited for the match this Saturday against Special Olympics Texas. I was born in Dallas, so I look forward to facing my hometown. I know I can't be shy in front of the crowd at the stadium. I will show my confidence so my team plays the same way.
By Aspen DeField
Monday was our last official practice before all of the Denver and Portland festivities. It was an evening of scrimmaging, naming the team captain, and showing off our soccer moves to the Rapids players.
During the coaches versus athletes scrimmage, athletes had the chance to show up their coaches and others from the Rapids organization and Kroenke sports. While it’s always fun to score a goal and steal the ball from another player, they seemed to particularly enjoy scoring on us and stealing the ball from the Rapids players. Not only did they get to play against the professionals, they also got to beat them! Our goalie, Morgan, was given some personal training time and in-game advice from Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. It was a great opportunity to have fun while working on their teamwork and game strategy, and take advantage of the professional advice and talents.
During halftime of the scrimmage, our team captain was named. Sam Villela, a first year player on the team, was presented with the captain band and some words of wisdom from Rapids captain Drew Moor. Sam was very pleased to have earned the role of captain, and his teammates and onlookers gave a round of applause. He provided a perfect captain-to-captain pose for the photographer!
The second half of the scrimmage included some great scoring moments, and the addition of Rapids player Chris Klute to the coaches’ team. While the athletes and Unified partners had their share of goal scoring, the coaches’ team pulled it out in the end during the “last goal wins” final moments of the scrimmage.
The Colorado Rapids Special Olympics Unified team met at Corey Elementary School on Monday for a final practice before hosting a Special Olympics team from Dallas.
Rapids players Drew Moor and Chris Klute helped the players work on their passing skills while Matt Pickens worked with fellow goalkeeper Morgan on goalkeeping skills.
Following warmups, the players faced off against Rapids players and staff and Special Olympics Colorado staff in a scrimmage. After the first 15 minute half, Drew Moor peesented fellow team captain Sam with a Captain's Arm Band. Drew had a few words for Sam, explaining that being a team captain "is a great responsibility." Drew further explained that a team captain must be "the first one on the field and the last one off the field" and must also "be inspiring his team." Click here to read Sam's account of the exchange.
Coach Aspen DeField admits that the Unified team beat their coaches and the Rapids staff so it looks like the team is ready for Saturday!
After an exciting debut season, the Colorado Rapids Unified Soccer Team began training for the start of the second year last night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. A few players returned from last year's team and were met by new teammates as Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens and defender Chris Klute put the athletes through their first workout of the season.
The players also received their new uniforms which they'll debut on Sept. 14 when they host a Special Olympics team from Dallas.
CLICK HERE to check out the photos from the first day of training and come back for more updates before and after each match.
This past Saturday, July 28 the Special Olympics Rapids took on the Special Olympics Sounders at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Despite a 2-0 loss, the SO Rapids enjoyed playing in the stadium, under the big lights with family and fans on the sidelines.
On Sunday, the players arrived at Starfire Complex around 10:30 for the 12 pm match. After getting ready they took part in the Opening Ceremony, which included a welcome message from Sounders VP Gary Wright and a Washington Olympian reciting the Special Olympics oath:
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Rapids Olympian Andie Zitek then sang the national anthem and we were ready to kick off.
Our captain Mackenzie Beauvias-Niki scored for us, and Dominic Sisneros played a great game in goal, taking a couple hard shots off the chest and hands. But in the end it was the Washington Olympians that came away with the 5-1 win.
However the score seemed almost secondary to the amount of fun these athletes had. It was a special event, complete with the Soundwave band which showed up at halftime and played most of the second half and post-game
They then had former U.S. National Team and Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller lead awards ceremony, and he was joined by Sounders players Cato and Roger Levesque.
Conor Coleman - who if you've kept up on these post, you realize is a ham - was infatuated with the big horns of the Soundwave, and he made a new friend that let him try it out.
And what has been perhaps the most hilarious moment of the entire trip, Colorado's Ipsen Ayala photo-bombed the Sounders team picture with the team, Southwave, Keller, etc. Check out photo and his pose below – it explains it all. It was all in good humor and everyone got a good laugh.
A lot has happened since I last post, so let's catch up.
After Saturday water fights / scrimmage / practice, we had some down time before heading to Century Link Field to watch our Rapids take on the Seattle Sounders, so we did a Duck tTour together with the Washington Special Olympians, checking out the sites of Seattle.
Here's the surprise we held from telling the players: just a few minutes before we left the hotel, we told them they'd be getting the first-class treatment at the game by sitting in a private suite. To say they were excited is an understatement - they were screaming with joy from the hotel lobby and until they entered the suite!
We watched the game and afterwards brought everyone down to the field, where the players received words of encouragement from Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid (right). Seattle's Roger Levesque gave each player a gift bag and Marvell Wynne also came back out to greet them (below).
That's Conor Coleman raising his hand in the photo on the right. He and Sigi were on a first name basis after all his questions, the last being: "Did you like coaching or playing better?" Sigi told him playing was his #1, and coaching #2.
From then, it was time to go back to the hotel to rest for Sunday's match.
So, now to a few notes about this morning's practice, which took place at Seattle Washington University's Championship field from about 11 to 12:30 or so. Just before practice, our Olympians met the Special Olympics Washington team for the first time, then practices along side them.
You see that guy in the photo to the right, that's Ibsen Ayala (FULL BIO). He was getting a little help with his shoes from the coaching staff. Though that smile has me believing he thinks he's some kind of superstar receiving superstar treatment, just leaning back while two coaching work on both shoes. I think I even saw a little wink after I took the photo.
Once ready and stretched the team played shark and did other drills for about an hour. And while soccer was the main focus, Conor Coleman - he of the great one-liner to Conor Casey - couldn't get his mind off last night's dessert. He apparently loved the Godiva cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory, because he couldn't stop talking about.
And what would a training session along side your opponent be without a little friction. Well, it wasn't really like that, but the two teams got into a little friendly water fight during one of the breaks. No clear winners, just a lot of water!
The final 30 minutes of practice was a 5-v-5 scrimmage, which ended in a 3-3 tie, setting up a good showdown tomorrow. Rapids 'keeper Dominic Sisneros (FULL BIO) took his instructions from coach Philip Knight (FULL BIO) well, because he played fantastic (below).
At the end of practice, the teams huddle up and congratulated each other, yelling out a "Unified" on 3!