Special Olympics Team BC hits the turf with Whitecaps FC at first soccer camp

'Caps join first Special Olympics Team BC practice

VANCOUVER, BC – Team BC 2014 soccer players got to test themselves against the best when members of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC organization joined in for a scrimmage at the first Team BC soccer training camp on Sunday, January 26.

The competitive but friendly match capped off a morning of skills training at the North Shore Girls Soccer Club indoor field and was followed by educational sessions, all in preparation for the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games in Vancouver.

“It was good,” says Special Olympics British Columbia (SOBC) – Mission athlete Tom Hanna. “Learning the skills. Passing the ball and heading the ball.”

The Team BC fullback also enjoyed the mixed-team scrimmage with current and former players from the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite program and Whitecaps FC legend Carl Valentine.

The Team BC soccer squad includes eight players from the SOBC – Mission soccer team, which qualified for the national games by going undefeated at the 2013 SOBC Summer Games in Langley to win gold in Division B. They added two members from Surrey and Victoria to compete in the national games, with veteran coaches Stuart Coates, Vince Astoria, and John Scholtes at the helm.

The Special Olympics BC athletes proved their determination and skill once again in Sunday’s scrimmage.

“The game was great,” said Valentine, Whitecaps FC club ambassador and U-16 Residency staff coach. “The athletes have a real grasp of how to play and there were some great plays.”

Valentine, an enthusiastic supporter of Special Olympics who has generously given his time to other SOBC events like the 2013 SOBC Summer Games and the Sports Celebrities Festival gala, shouted encouragement to his SOBC teammates and gave out high-fives.

“It’s an unbelievable cause,” Valentine said of Special Olympics. “As big an organization as Whitecaps FC is, we want to be an asset to the community and have an impact on the community, and you have to develop great partnerships to do that. Special Olympics is a unique and important organization we want to align ourselves with. It’s the right thing to do.”

For Aman Shergill, an alumni of the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite team, the game was a chance to get out and play in the community.

“They’re very hardworking and have lots of ability,” she said of the Special Olympics athletes. “They have good knowledge of the game.”

Current Whitecaps FC Girls Elite player Kelsey Smith was equally impressed by the Team BC athletes.

“They’re willing to get in there and not afraid to play against us, and some of their skills are amazing,” she said.

The training camp also included conditioning and skills sessions in dribbling, trapping, and shooting, as well as goalie-specific training. The classroom components featured mental performance training, nutrition, and national games information.

It will be the fourth national games for Hanna, who has been a Special Olympics athlete since getting involved in 1985 at age 12.

“We practice a lot and we have good coaches,” he says of his team’s preparation for the national games. “We want to go to the Worlds.”