On Saturday, July 9 the Mountainland RSL Special Olympics Unified side will face off against Colorado Rapids Unified. Kickoff is set for 10:15 p.m. MT following Real Salt Lake’s home match against the Colorado Rapids. The Real Salt Lake Special Olympics Unified Team is set to play their first match against another Unified side since 2019 due to travel restrictions and safety procedures put in place during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Special Olympics organization was created in 1968 and supports 5.5 million athletes who participate in 244 national and U.S. programs in 193 countries . Special Olympics fights against the intolerance, injustice, inactivity and social isolation that their athletes face.
Unified Soccer is an inclusive sports program that unites Special Olympics athletes with partners as teammates for training and games. Athletes are individuals with intellectual disabilities who are paired with partners without intellectual disabilities. The goal of Special Olympics is to provide year-round training and athletic competition for its athletes. It gives them opportunities to develop physical fitness, become leaders and find a community for themselves.
Real Salt Lake has had a Special Olympics Unified soccer team since 2016. The team will play at Rio Tinto Stadium with their lone home-match of the year on July 9. The team will then travel to San Jose to face Earthquakes Unified on July 30, following RSL’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
For RSL Unified Head Coach Jenna Holland, one of her favorite parts about being involved in the Unified organization is that it allows her athletes to gain experiences they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“They realize, I’m in the Monarchs locker room, or I’m in RSL’s Rio Tinto Stadium in the hallway where they don’t let everyday people go,” Holland said. “I tell them like, you’re in the big time now. This is it. They love it.”
The Special Olympics organization and RSL’s Unified team play a big role in the athletes’ and partners’ lives who participate. The opportunity for the athletes and partners to get out and play competitive soccer provides these individuals with the opportunity to showcase their skillsets while building lifelong friendships with their teammates.
Goalkeeper coach Bryan Karren joined the RSL Unified staff in hopes of giving back a little bit to an organization who has given his son, Unified Captain Kyle “Pickles” Karren, so much.
In addition to being able to represent Real Salt Lake, Special Olympics also hosts an All-Star Game where the best Special Olympics Unified athletes are nominated to go represent their clubs and divisions in the All-Star game. The Special Olympics Unified Organization works to provide the highest level of play for all its athletes and partners.
To support the RSL Unified team, be sure to come to the match on July 9 when they take on Colorado Rapids Unified immediately following the Real Salt Lake game.