The 2014 Colorado Rapids Special Olympics Colorado Unified Soccer program officially kicked off on Wednesday, May 14th. It was the first practice for the newly expanded team, which includes 30 athletes and a coaching staff of seven. Of the 30, there are 15 Special Olympics athletes and 15 Unified partners who demonstrated their skills at two separate try-outs.
This was the first time that the entire team has been together to play. Although many of them met at the team announcement before the Rapids game on May 3rd, this was their first opportunity to kick a ball, run around, work together and get to know their coaches. Some of the athletes, partners and coaches have participated in the program during the last two seasons, but most are new to the squad. There are athletes and coaches from Denver, Colorado Springs, Brighton, even as far as Pueblo! The group comes from around the state, but quickly found a rhythm and meshed well.
During this practice, the athletes’ focus was on becoming familiar with one another and getting to know everyone’s names, while the coaches were busy assessing strengths, areas for improvement and developing a practice plan for coming weeks. After warm ups and introductions, the team broke into two smaller groups to play a couple games of World Cup. Between each round, team members were alternated so that each person was able to work with a variety of their teammates and coaches on a small scale. It provided a perfect set-up for athletes to be assessed and coaches to be involved. Everybody had a great time, and we learned that there is some amazing talent on the team this year. Based on what was seen, there are going to be some defensive plays and scoring opportunities that you’ll want to see first-hand this season.
Overall, it was a great start to what promises to be an exciting season with plenty of new talent and athletes who are eager for experiences and victories!