Creating a Unified Floorball event in Winter 2017 taught me a lot about the game. It’s catching on, and hopefully, serve as a call to action to drive more Unified Floorball events to emerge across the country.
You may have heard of Special Olympics, but it’s likely you may not have heard of Unified Sports. Special Olympics Unified Sports. Based on statistics from Special Olympics over 1.2 million people worldwide participate in Unified Sports. The other question you might be asking is, what is Unified Sports? The Unified Sports program is focused on breaking down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities by using the power of sports. The program pairs people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team to compete in sports. Teams are comprised of people of similar age and ability.
I recently had an opportunity to see the Unified Sports program in action. I was invited to the Special Olympics of Washington Winter Games 2017, located in Wenatchee, WA. The main reason I was invited was to demo floorball as a new option for Unified Sports. When I arrived at the winter games the event was already in full swing. Inside the gym there were athletes all over the place, and there was a noticeable excitement in the air. The main sport being played in the gym was basketball. What stood out to me was despite the competitive drive of the athletes there were smiles all around. The first part of the morning had Special Olympics basketball teams playing, which later transitioned to Unified Sports athletes competing. In between those two divisions of teams was the first ever Unified Floorball event.
I was fortunate to have a friend come with me for the event, and while we began setting up we started to attract interest from the athletes. Ultimately we ran a few short scrimmages for various athletes. We didn’t have a lot of time for the demo so we did a quick introductory session covering basic rules, got the right sticks in their hands and off we went. As the scrimmages carried on we started to attract quite the crowd. In the end, we saw goals, lots of smiles, and hopefully the beginning of Unified floorball in Washington State.
The event exceeded my expectations and helped open the door for continued growth of floorball throughout the state and hopefully the country. With floorball gaining more attention on the worldwide stage through the Special Olympics World Games I’m hopeful that more athletes will be more included in sports through schools.