Led by Coach Julie Rodriguez, team is comprised of six SOAZ athletes and four unified partners
The Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ) Unified Floorball team, comprised of athletes from SOAZ and current/former students from the Dysart Unified School District, will be competing in the 2022 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Kazan, Russia, in January of 2022.
The Unified Floorball team is led by coach Julie Rodriguez, a P.E. and Health teacher at Shadow Ridge High School, as well as a volunteer coach for SOAZ’s AIA Unified Sports Program. The team features six SOAZ athletes and four unified partners, who all went through demanding tryouts to make the squad for 2022. Held early in 2021, the tryouts were skill-based and extremely competitive.
“It was a tough decision, because we had so many great athletes competing to make the team,” Rodriguez said. “But ultimately we had to make some tough decisions to cut the roster to 10. We want to have a competitive team to represent the U.S. and show the world what the athletes at the Dysart Unified School District can really accomplish with an inclusive campus, where we live, learn and play UNIFIED.”
With the World Games nine months away, the team will be busy practicing, training and scrimmaging other teams, as well as fundraising in order to cover the costs associated with travel and participating in the World Games.
“The athletes are hard at work getting ready in terms of practice and training, but also in the community to get the word out,” Rodriguez said. “The fundraising part is a little overwhelming for all of us, but we are just doing what we can do get the word out. We hope that people want to support our Unified team, make any donation they can, and more importantly, help spread the word. Like the saying goes, ‘every dollar counts’.”
Rodriguez and the team have a goal of $90,000 to help fund this Special Olympics Event, and since Special Olympics Arizona is a non-profit organization, donations are tax deductible. For more information or to make a donation to the SOAZ Unified Floorball Team, visit https://www.classy.org/event/2022-world-winter-games/e313707.
“We are so proud of this team and excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to travel to Russia and compete in the World Winter Games,” said Jamie Heckerman, President and CEO of Special Olympics Arizona. “We know they will proudly represent the State of Arizona, as well as being outstanding representatives for Inclusion.”
The Special Olympics World Winter Games (Kazan Russia, 2022) will serve as a catalyst that will challenge perceptions about people with intellectual disabilities, and all people with differences, and demonstrate to the world the power of sport to establish thriving, inclusive communities by transforming attitudes and behaviors.
Held January 22 – 28, more than 2,000 athletes and Unified partners from 108 nations and 3,000 volunteers from all over the world will gather in Kazan to create acceptance and Inclusion through sport, volunteerism, education and health.