Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rules and Regulations

For those of you interested in how the matches work at the Special Olympics World Games, here's a quick primer:

-games are 4v4 plus Goalkeepers, with 20 minute halves
-goals are a bit smaller than regulation indoor soccer goals
-fields are 50x35
-balls are restarted on the sideline with kick-ins (not throw-ins)
-balls are restarted on the endline with corner kicks or direct distribution from the goalkeeper's hands (no goal kicks)
-goalkeepers cannot distribute the ball past half-field

There is no qualifying for the Special Olympics World Games, but football (soccer) is the most popular team sport at the event. Over 100 teams will be present. As a result, we will spend the first several days of the tournament playing Preliminary Matches, sometimes more than two per day. Officials will watch every team and then categorize the teams into a number (up to eight or nine) of separate tournaments, each filled with teams of relatively equal ability. Each tournament has its own gold, silver, and bronze medals.

No American team has ever medaled, and very few have been legitimate contenders in their tournaments, but officials at our training camp in San Diego said this was the best American soccer team they had ever seen! We're definitely hoping to raise the standard!

For the truly interested, you can read the full rules and regulations here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Training Schedule Intensifies

At the end of March, the team spent four days at San Diego State University (seen above and below), training twice each day as part of a weeklong camp for all of TEAM USA. The squad returned to Maryland just in time for April showers, and they had a number of practices canceled. So, to make up for lost time, training sessions have expanded from once to twice to now three times a week in the final run-up to departure. Constant practice, including winter sessions in a basketball gym, has greatly improved the team's skill and understanding of the game, and most of the current sessions involve a lot of scrimmage time... which is good, because they will play multiple games per day in Athens. Time to make sure we're in shape, guys!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Meet the Team

The 2011 Special Olympics Team USA Soccer squad comes from St. Mary's County, Maryland. The team has not lost to an American Special Olympics team in over eight years. In 2009, the squad won the Maryland State Championship in the Unified division (playing against teams mixed with Special Olympians and their partners).

Team members (as seen in the picture above):

Back Row (L-R): Head Coach John Toner, Manager Mary Lu Bucci, Brandon Chan, Avery Long, Wesley Thompson, Larry Mills, Steven Summerfelt, Assistant Coach Ken Cohen

Front Row (L-R): Thomas Smith, Shaun Ridley, Alan Hill, Terrell Nowlin, Sam Huffman

For more about the team, check out their individual profiles and their coverage in the local Maryland press. This blog will share news about the team's experiences leading up to and during the 2011 Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece, from June 25-July 4. For more on the World Games, click here.