EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — For the first time ever, Hanks High School’s Unified Floorball team will be the only team to represent the United States at the World Special Olympics in 2021.
Floorball is a sport most El Pasoans are probably not very familiar with, but it’s very similar to hockey on a court using sticks and a ball.
“We have to score in the goal. We have to play as a team and our passes have to be really good in order to make our teammates score and at the end whoever has more goals win,” said Crisveli Gaytan, Hanks High School Sophomore.
The sport was challenging to many of the students because it was different from any sport they’d ever played, but the Hanks UKnighted Coach, Ricardo Rodriguez said it didn’t take long for athletes and parents to jump on board.
“It’s not easy, it’s very physically demanding it’s pretty rough but the parents you know they embrace it and they’re like you know let’s go for it it’s a good opportunity for our kids to do it,” said Rodriguez.
A unified team, like the one at Hanks, is a team made up of Special Education students and regular education students who play together as a team.
“Special Olympic by itself is awesome but when you bring the unified kids it means it’s even more special because it makes them one. You know, it brings them together in a place where sometimes it never happens,” Rodriguez said.
The students won the gold in the qualifier round in San Antonio in February and are now eligible to represent the entire United States at the Special Olympics.
“Once we get those uniforms the ones that say the United States of America on them that’s when its gonna really hit me. It’s gonna really hit them. After we won that tournament in San Antonio everybody was emotional, I mean the parents were emotional, the coaches were emotional, it’s just an awesome feeling and the magnitude of what this means for our kids and for our city and for our country it’s huge, it’s something you can’t describe,” Rodriguez said.
The 2021 Special Olympics are scheduled for February 2021. A last-minute decision by the Swedish government forced the event out of Östersund in December and the Special Olympics are working to secure a new location. The uncertainty of where the event will be held means the Hanks Uknighted Floorball team will need to fundraise heavily ahead of time.
The team is hosting a GoFundMe fundraiser ahead of the competition to gather donations to help with travel expenses, equipment, food, lodging, and other expenses associated with the upcoming trip.