Inclusion Floor Hockey: Learning how to be a winner
What an amazing experience! I was so honored to be able to volunteer with Mr. Ed Krass, my gym teacher from elementary school, to run a full inclusion floor hockey league. The fact that there was a high energy sport that allowed high-functioning children to play in a team setting, when they normally have difficulty, was empowering for the children and the parents.
I have to admit that I feel jealous sometimes, when I hear peers commenting about all the sports teams that their children are playing on. I also admit some relief when I hear them complaining about all the chauffeuring. In any case, it’s been a while since my son, and many of the other children in this league, have played a team sport.
The children clearly had some skills to learn. There was plenty of formal instruction on how to hold the stick, the positions of offense and defense and which way to shoot the puck. For me, the informal lessons of sportsmanship, teamwork and perseverance were invaluable. You can’t learn to be a good sport if you never are on a losing team. You can’t learn to pass to your teammates to set up a winning offense if you are never on a team. You can’t learn to play the whole game because your team needs you if you are allowed to sit out all the time.
What I also loved about this team is that because was full inclusion, there was no separation between those who are considered “typical” and those with “special needs”. The coaches, both adults and teens, had the same expectations for all of the players. The kids did too. There were no pity-plays – letting a less skilled child score just to make him feel better. Instead, there was coaching to teach them the skills on shooting and encouragement to keep trying instead of giving up. Tantrums were dealt respectfully – not fearfully.
Overall, it was a great experience. In fact the only disappointment was that the league couldn’t continue past vacation. The kids were making such great strides and having such fun that no one wanted the season to end. There is good news, however. Soccer starts in April. I’ve even heard many of the children looking forward to it. Imagine, a league where every one is a winner – because they learn how to be.