As Special Olympics Southern California has expanded its reach, now serving more than 32,250 athletes, more competitors have been able to try their hand at more sports. New sports have come and gone over the last 50 years, and some have moved seasons.
The standalone floor hockey season, which wraps up with the March 11 championship event, was one in a series of changes as part of the new sports plan and its mission to enrich underserved areas. The move from fall to winter made it possible for one particular group of northern Orange County athletes to compete in the sport and still keep their options open for the upcoming spring season.
Gail Bowman, a local program coordinator, sent out a survey to special needs groups and learned the prospective athletes in the area had serious interest in floor hockey.
“A lot of these athletes play multiple sports, so it definitely helped [moving to its own season] and they’re able to play even more sports now,” she said.
“North Orange County was an underserved area as far as Special Olympics goes. So that’s why we wanted to get more teams going.”
Once the team was formed, OC Storm head coach Megan Prell then had to run the athletes through the basics – including how to put on the pads and equipment. The RINKS at Huntington Beach, which will serve as the host venue for the floor hockey championship, pitched in and allowed some of the athletes to use its extra equipment such as helmets.
The sports itself was also a new venture. Megan recalled the first practices, when the players weren’t sure where the puck was going and “couldn’t move it more than six inches.” As they practiced together more and more, they started to communicate and their play steadily improved.
“Just to watch them develop as a team,” Megan said, “has been an incredible thing.”
While the Storm did not qualify for the Floor Hockey Championship, these 16 teams comprised of more than 200 athletes will be in action at The RINKS in Huntington Beach this Sunday:
|Western San Bernardino Comets (Inland Empire)||Bakersfield Thunder (Kern)|
|Northern Santa Barbara Braves||Northern Santa Barbara Ducks|
|Laguna Hills Eagle Hawks (Orange County)||Laguna Hills Hawks (Orange County)|
|Pomona Wildcats (San Gabriel Valley)||Santa Barbara Dolphins|
|Santa Barbara Penguins||Santa Clarita Valley Great Whites|
|Santa Clarita Valley Sharks||Santa Clarita Valley Tiger Sharks|
|El Cajon Gulls (San Diego)||Vista Red Wings (San Diego)|
|San Luis Obispo Tigers||San Luis Obispo Wildcats|
The one-day event will begin with Opening Ceremonies at 8 a.m. and the competition will start at 8:15 a.m. Learn more about the Floor Hockey Championship by visiting www.sosc.org/fhc.