SURPRISE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Out in Surprise, some amazing athletes are taking on a unique sport called floorball. Julie Rodriguez, a Special Olympics volunteer and P.E. teacher coaches the unified team.
"We have ten players on the team," said Rodriguez. "Six of them have an intellectual disability, and four do not. That's what is required of a unified sport. Unified sports combine players with and without disabilities to play together and compete at a high level."
The team features current and former students from Dysart Unified School District, and each week they practice at Shadow Ridge High School. Rodriguez describes floorball as a safer version of hockey.
"A lot of hockey players play it off-season, just to keep up their skills and do it safely," said Rodriguez. "This is an indoor version, using a lighter stick. It has a slotted blade, and it uses a whiffle ball instead of a puck."
In January 2022, the floorball team is headed to Russia for The Special Olympics World Winter Games. Rodriguez said her team has been practicing hard and cannot wait for the trip.
"These kids are so fun, really positive. They support each other," said Rodriguez. "I've coached wrestling, softball, volleyball, track, and field, everything across the gambit, but nothing as rewarding as coaching these unified sports and these athletes."
The team is hoping to raise money for the trip. You can donate here.