mission special olympics soccer teamComprised of hardworking athletes and coaches from Mission, Abbotsford, Coquitlam, and Victoria, B.C., the Special Olympics Team Canada soccer team is poised to make the most of their trip to the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the culmination of an unexpected and thrilling journey.

Head Coach John Scholtes of Special Olympics BC – Mission says the team “came out of nowhere” four years ago and went on to win gold at both Provincial and National Games. With a mix of dedicated longtime athletes and talented players who are relative newcomers, the team has come together and proven themselves through their hard work and their skills under pressure in competition.

Over the months building toward the 2015 World Games, the team members have been practicing three times a week and working out in the gym once a week, gaining muscle and making sure they will be at their best in Los Angeles. They also bonded and worked hard together at their Team Canada training camps – the May 2015 camp included great play in a tournament in Washington, and the November 2014 camp in Kelowna saw the team log valuable time in dryland training and workouts on an indoor pitch.

“The players are coming together. They’ve all been working really hard,” Scholtes said. “They’re really enjoying it and trying to be better every day.”

The team benefits from veteran leadership from the likes of Bryce Schaufelberger, Adam Advocaat, and Jeremy Cheverie, players who set a great example of dedication and calm under pressure. Longtime athletes Tony Carter, Tom Hanna, and Chris Hamilton show exemplary diligence in training and strong abilities, while the abundant talents of younger athletes Justin King and Liam Barry provide spark and thrills for the team. Amanda Peebles inspires with her abilities and by standing tall as the team’s only female member. Anchoring the back end is goalkeeper Mitchell Howell, who empowers the team through his confident and rock-solid netminding.

On the coaching side, Scholtes joins Stuart Coates of SOBC – Mission and Vince Astoria of SOBC – Abbotsford, supported by Team Canada soccer mission staff member Jarrod Copland of Ontario. Scholtes brings extensive knowledge of the game, and Coates and Astoria have been coaching Special Olympics soccer together and against each other for 27 years.

In June 2015, Coates was inducted into the Mission Sports Hall of Fame for his extensive efforts with and impact on soccer in the community and Special Olympics in particular. Athlete Schaufelberger was inducted into the same Hall of Fame in 2013; he was a member of the Special Olympics Team Canada soccer team coached by Coates that won World Games gold in 2007 in China, and earned bronze with Special Olympics Team Canada soccer at the 2011 World Games in Greece.

The players and coaches will be thinking of teammate Glen Griner of SOBC – Mission while they are competing in L.A. The 68-year-old Griner won gold with the team at Provincial and National Games and was set to play with Team Canada, but after the first national team training camp, he was diagnosed with cancer and had to step down for health reasons. Griner is now in remission and his teammates will carry photos and thoughts of him with them throughout the World Games.

Team Canada soccer will make their country proud with their play in L.A.!