The Colorado Rapids rolled out the red carpet at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park last month, playing host to the 2021 Colorado Special Olympics players, coaching staff, and guardians. They spared no limits to have their special guests experience Media Day — no different than their professional counterparts do prior to the start of each MLS season.
Special Olympics Colorado and the Colorado Rapids Soccer Club have partnered for 10 seasons and together the organizations form a Unified Team, which is made up of volunteer peer-player partners from the greater Colorado community and Special Olympics athletes. The partners help create an environment of full inclusion, both on and off the field and assist and ensure the Olympians participate to their fullest potential during practices, match day play, and social events.
This year’s tryouts were held on May 15 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The mission of the cooperative program is to provide Special Olympics athletes with top-level training and competitive experiences, in addition, provide MLS fans, nationwide, the opportunity to witness, firsthand, the talents and abilities of Special Olympics Colorado soccer players.
Colorado Switchbacks launch Unified Team Program
Local Colorado USL Championship fans will also have the opportunity to cheer on their Unified Team in 2021, as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks will launch their very first Special Olympics soccer team.
According to Caitlin Kinser, Senior Director of the Rapids Community Relations and Youth Programming, the Switchbacks’ front office expressed interest in developing their own program. They reached out to Rapids for their council and support during the off-season. As a result of their efforts and commitment to their community, the Switchbacks have created the first-ever Special Olympics Unified soccer team within the USL.
The Switchbacks hope their program will serve as a model for their USL rivals, and create even more opportunities for individuals with disabilities, both intellectual and physical, to be included in all forms of USL community-based sports.
The partnership has already generated results as both organizations will host home and away games at their respective stadium complexes. The Rapids will be playing at Weidner Field on September 15 and the return leg will be at DSGP on October 23.
The club will announce future matches at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and away against MLS Unified Teams, once COVID-19 related travel protocols are determined.
Special Olympics Media Day Gallery
During the recent Media Day event, introductions, joyous hi-fives, and embraces between veteran and newly recruited athletes and partners were exchanges throughout the stadium’s media level. While some team members, family members, coaches were busy being interviewed; others were being photographed and videoed in full Rapids attire and backdrops by the club’s digital and social media production team including Jack Murphy, Mallorie Lough, Mike Revollo, and Conor Pickett; and first-team photographers- Bart Young and Garrett Ellwood.
Meet Rapids’ Unified Teammates Rebecca ‘Becca’ Jeambey and Michael Bush
“Soccer has always been part of my life,” 20-year-old Becca Jeambey told the Burgundy Wave. The Arvada native was recruited to this unique volunteer opportunity by a friend to serve as one of the team’s partner-players. Jeambey is excited to bring her 15 years of combined Real Colorado EDGE Soccer Club and Storm youth club experience and Arvada West High play to the Rapids’ Special Olympics Team program.
As a first-time volunteer, she also hopes to gain a better appreciation of the lifestyles and challenges of Special Olympic athletics. She is a first-year Master’s Degree candidate at the University of Denver, majoring in social work. Her long-term goals include working in the field of child welfare and with people with different abilities.
Her attitude as a team member is most admirable. “My commitment is 110% to this team, and I am planning every single practice and attend every game,” she said. “Since I am new to Special Olympics and disabilities in general, I know that it will not be easy getting to know everything; however, I am very willing to learn.” Jeambey, along with her fellow partners, will be tutored by Special Olympics coaches and staff members throughout the season and looks forward to her one and two-a-week practices with her new team.
First-time, Rapids Special Olympian, Michael Bush, is a multi-talented athlete. His biggest champion and mother, Holly Bush, describes him “As a pretty busy and athletic guy.”
He has played a multitude of sports both as a youth and young adult. From soccer to basketball to track and field to golf. He boasts a 150-yard shot off of a golf tee.
A native of Long Beach, California, who currently lives in Aurora, he is a productive member of our greater community working at a restaurant nearby his residence. As a youth, he played recreational and adaptive soccer through schools and community programs
Bush is a big fan of the Rapids, Barcelona FC, and the United States Men’s National Team.
During his senior year at Aurora’s Grandview High School, he was a member of the school’s Unified basketball and track team.
He was scouted by lifelong Coloradan, student-athlete, and high school teacher, Todd Southhall. Southhall was born without an arm below his right elbow; however, this did not prevent him from exceeding his potential as a high school footballer in Steamboat Springs and at Colorado College. His successes earned him membership to both high school, state, and national Hall of Fames.
Southall has devoted his adult career to teaching and working with Special Olympics and Paralympic programs. He saw a lot of himself in Bush and recruited him to train at the U.S Olympics Training Campus in Chula Vista, California as a track and field athlete. Soon thereafter, Bush went on to travel with the U.S Paralympics Team to events in Oklahoma, Indiana, and Arizona. He even completed in Olympics Time Trails and has a bounty of medals to prove his many victories in national track events.
Today, the effusive and articulate Olympian is mastering dribbling his soccer ball with speed, his powerful shots on goal, and is also gearing up to earn several more medallions with his newest Olympic Team.