This is the latest blog entry from the athletes on the Colorado Rapids Special Olympics Unified Team, brought to you by Cardel Homes.
“Let me win, and if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt” (Special Olympics Athlete Oath)
For many, it was their first time at Dick’s Sporting Goods, let alone in a Rapids uniform, in the First Team locker rooms, or playing on the main pitch. For others, they have been here before. Regardless of the number of times an athlete, partner, or coach has walked down the stairs towards the field, the memories and feelings are different. Each time, there is truly something remarkable and special about putting on the gear, walking onto the pitch as a team, listening to the National Anthem, hearing your name over the loud speaker, seeing your team on the field, and being given the opportunity to both represent Special Olympics and the Colorado Rapids. It is hard to describe exactly what this entails, but whatever it was and continues to be, it is something that reaches my innermost being, forever leaving an imprint on my heart!
It did not stop with warm-ups and the team huddle. There is a certain energy that took over from the moment the first whistle blew. Athletes, partners, coaches, parents, fans, Rapids first-team players and staff would likely agree there is something so powerful about watching two teams, each representing Special Olympics and MLS, come together to play a unified match. For the first time in many seasons, the Rapids Unified team was up 1-0 at half time. The plan for the second half was to play hard defense and most importantly, work together as a united front, something that seems to come naturally with this group. At the end of the match, the whistle blew and the Rapids Unified Team won! However, no matter the end result, it was impossible to ignore the smile on each one of the players’ faces, on both sides of the field, indicating that we are all champions, and that, is the greatest victory!
The memories do not just stop at our home opener on June 3rd. There are many yet to come and have been numerous other highlights so far already this season. The leadership, friendship and support of Zac MacMath, Dillon Powers and Eric Miller has been instrumental in helping us get there along the way. Special Olympics athletes and partners were asked to sign contracts, binding their commitment to the team, noting that they will work hard, and most importantly, will show good sportsmanship as we travel on this journey together. It was on this first night, that we truly started forming an instant bond with this new team, our new family. No longer can we operate as individuals from Special Olympics or individuals from the Rapids, player or staff. Rather, the commonality of family and the sport that we love, soccer, brings us together as a Unified Front. It is this family bond that allows us to come together every week for practice, and even allows others, even if temporary in other matches, join our family for a social outing or Rapids Unified match. Together, we are the forces that will make the greatest difference.