If you’ve never seen floor hockey, and most of us haven’t, then maybe it takes some explaining. It’s played fast on hard ground, with sticks, but with a felt puck – the puck being the only thing that’s soft.
It’s Youth Month, and since UNICEF supports Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ), we visited training on a hot Saturday morning to interview Special Olympian 16-year-old Shamar Wade, floor hockey player and a student at Windsor School of Special Education in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
Shamar started training with the Jamaican team only since October last year, and looks set to join them on a plane to the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 in Austria. There, in the first ever games to be televised by ESPN, they will compete against more experienced teams, not least those from ‘cold countries’, like Canada.
Shamar told us why he loves hockey, why he loves a good challenge, and what he dreams about as a Special Olympian.
“Yes, it’s hard to explain floor hockey! Because they say ‘it must be hard to play, plus a whole lot of injuries because of the stick.’ But I say that once you know how to play it’s good and if you play it clean then you don’t get any injuries”.
“It’s a nice game, but a dangerous game. You have fun, but you have to look out for what will happen.”
— Ross Sheil (@RossSheil) November 15, 2016
“This is nicer than football because you get to do a lot of tricks with the stick as well as to shift people – with the stick and the puck it’s harder to control.”
“It’s my dream to represent Jamaica to make my mommy proud. We can win the gold medal if we work hard, if we train hard, and put our mind to it.”
“Special Olympics makes me feel on top because when I didn’t have the possibility of doing anything I used to feel down, I used to feel depressed. So thanks to everyone who helped us out!”
“This has really brought me out. It makes more people see me because when we play this I feel like a champion.”
“I’d like to be a soldier, because I love things with challenges!”
“People don’t know I have an intellectual disability: girls love me, family love me, everyone loves me! It’s just my reading.”
“Reading, that’s what I want to challenge myself with right now; and after that it’s math. That’s why I want to work on it, because I want to beat it and I want to overcome it.”
UNICEF and Special Olympics Jamaica
In 2015, at the World Summer Special Olympics games, Jamaica’s medal haul was an impressive 29 medals across five team and individual disciplines: 10 gold, 11 silver and 8 bronze medals with the national track and field tradition accounting for 13 of those medals.
Beyond athletic achievement, SOJ is also about inclusion. More than 4,000 athletes nationally train with a high percentage competing nationally and internationally in the following sports: football, aquatics, basketball, bocce, cricket, floor hockey and motor activity training.
UNICEF sees an opportunity in its growing partnership with SOJ to further engage children with special needs and their families. Among persons living in poverty in developing countries, about 20 percent have a disability – twice that of the overall global population. Participation in sport and recreation helps empower children with disabilities and teaches them key life skills.
It can also help build more inclusive societies by raising awareness about the contributions children with disabilities can make in their communities, and thus changing attitudes. UNICEF works with partners at the local and national level to promote the rights of children with disabilities and give them the opportunity to participate in meaningful school, community and sport activities.