And Then There Were Eleven

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.