Written by Eric Frohlick, Senior Manager, Intel IT Legal & Corporate Affairs
Note: Eric was contacted by Special Olympics Colorado to offer a fan's perspective of the SOCO Unified Team
I read John Meyer’s article on DenverPost.com covering the Rapids Special Olympics team and was moved by the story and a connection I have to the team’s star forward, Mackenzie Beauvais-Nikl, who is a student at Thomas Jefferson High School where I graduated in 1990. I hoped to meet Mackenzie and the rest of the team during their visit to Portland and cheer them on in their match against the Timbers.
As luck would have it, the team sat about 10 rows behind me at Rapids-Timbers MLS match and at half-time I introduced myself to the team, got to meet Mackenzie, and let them know I was a big fan. It was a special moment to see all of their smiles. The following day, my 12 year old son Matthew, who is a goalkeeper for a regional Timbers Olympic development team, and I came to watch and cheer for the team in their match against Portland. We had a great time cheering on Mackenzie and the rest of the players during a downpour.
All of the players were fantastic and now Ibsen, who scored a hat trick for Colorado, is Matthew’s favorite player. In fact, Matthew named a new pair of Adidas shoes “The Ibsens” in his honor. I hope our presence gave the players a sense of joy and support.
The Rapids and KSE deserve to be recognized for their sponsorship of the program and both Matt Pickens and Chris Klute deserve special recognition for their support of the kids and on-field coaching during the match giving the team the encouragement and confidence to have fun and be successful.
Written by Ilima Kane, Coach
It’s Monday evening and time for another Special Olympic Rapids practice. The eight players who traveled to Portland are still a bit jet lagged but the seven new players are ready to go and the energy is positive all around. We circle up to start practice with some introductions. I ask the original eight players what their favorite part of our experience so far has been and faces light up all around the circle. Morgan straightens up and says, “When Matt Pickens helps me in goal!” with a huge grin.
Sam is proud to be the captain and lead such a great team to victory. He says, “We worked hard and came together as a team. That was my favorite part.” Ben echoes those statements and adds that he likes being able to travel and play against teams from other states. Mackenzie says, “It was scary and very exciting. Having the Rapids players there watching meant we had to do our best and we did!” She is glowing with the memory. Ryan enjoyed being a part of such an effective team and Dylan really enjoyed the fancy hotel bathrobes. Azur couldn’t make our practice but I think he would agree with the group, the trip was a fantastic experience all around. Ibsen is proud of his hat trick and sums things up nicely with a resounding, “Awesome!”
We ask the new players what they are looking forward to most and more faces light up. Calmer is excited to be a part of the team and can’t wait to meet some of his favorite Rapids players. Luke is ready to get in goal and show the world what he is made of. Vince is happy to be a part of the team and looks forward to the big game against Seattle. Dominic is excited to be back with the team and can’t wait to get to work to support his new teammates and play hard. Patrick, Tonya and Sam are excited to be a part of the experience and dive right in, helping their teammates as we roll out a nice game of “world cup” for the main part of our practice.
Things are a little chaotic at first, but everyone settles in quickly. The passing improves and soon there is plenty of ribbing and laughter all around as everyone gets comfortable with each other. We end the practice by lining up in our new 11 aside formation and talk a little about how this new format is going to work and how to support each other on the field. Next practice we’ll run a big scrimmage and focus on positioning and lots of communication.
This is a great team and, as a coach, I was impressed to see how quickly and easily they have all come together towards our goal of being the best team we can be as we face off against Seattle.
Written by Doug Fulton, Senior Manager of Fan Development at KSE
What an honor it is to be a part of the Rapids Unified team!
Project Unify is everything that is right about sports and goes beyond the play on the pitch. It is one of the most important programs I have seen in my 13 years of working at Kroenke Sports. It is about athletes coming together, celebrating each other for who they are, supporting their teammates, improving their soccer skills and bringing smiles to everyone who comes into contact with Unified sports. For most of these athletes it is the first time they have flown on a plane and traveled without their family. They get to experience new opportunities and take risks which allow them to grow. The coaches and partners are amazing, but the Special Olympics athletes are the heart of the team.
The pictures show the joy and smiles on the faces of everyone involved – the players, coaches, refs, staff, parents, volunteers and fans. This program is a priority for the team and you can see it in the kits the team wears, the support of the players from the First Team and the involvement of the front office. Kroenke Sports Charities and the Colorado Rapids are doing great work partnering with Special Olympics Colorado in creating a program that is a win for our community.
Congratulations to the team on a successful trip to Portland in so many ways. We look forward to our match with Seattle on Saturday, October 5th. Please come support the program and cheer on the Rapids Unified team!
the Rapids Special Olympics team headed to Portland, Oregon to tour the city and play against the Portland Timbers Special Olympics team. The day started with a tour of the adidas USA Headquarters and adidas Village with the Rapids adidas representative, Zola Short. The athletes toured the facilities and then tested out some new adidas equipment that helps improve your shot during a mini-camp.
The Rapids and Special Olympics Colorado welcomed FC Dallas and Special Olympics Texas to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for a couple matches Saturday night.
Athletes from both Special Olympics teams enjoyed the Rapids-FC Dallas match from a suite before heading down to prepare for their own battle. Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens has attended all of the Special Olympics practices and was on hand Saturday night to help Morgan Butler get prepared for her goalkeeping duties.
Before the match kicked off, teams traded gifts with one another and then took to the field for some fun.
At halftime the score was tied one-to-one and the Special Olympics Texas team took the lead in the second half. Thanks to forward Mackenzie Beauvais-Nikl, who scored a late goal, the Rapids SOCO squad was able to pull a 2-2 draw. After the match, athletes from both teams were presented with medals.
The Rapids Special Olympics Colorado Unified team will head to Portland this weekend to take on the Portland Special Olympics Team at halftime of the Rapids-Timbers Reserve League match on Saturday.
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.