This is just an update post, as I will be going to Chicago this Monday [more on that later], and I will be writing future posts to cover the content described here in more detail. I just wanted to let everyone know what's going on and give some background to everything [which I'll probably go over again in the following posts].
Writer's note: I originally wrote half of this on Thursday, didn't touch it on Friday [my bad], and when I went on it today, WordPress glitched and denied me access to the article. I think I left the tab open when I closed the computer, corrupting it somehow. So everything here was written Saturday, so if I left anything out or made this feel rushed, I apologize and will try not to make the same mistakes again.
The Toronto Football Club [TFC], in conjunction with Special Olympics and Kia Motors [the latter sponsor the Club], held a tryouts last month to pick athletes for their Unified Team. The Team would comprise of six athletes from Special Olympics playing with regular athletes on a special team that will be playing Montreal's own Unified Team on August 26th. I heard about the tryouts from a friend who was also going, and decided that it seemed like a good idea, so I went.
The tryouts consisted of training and drills–to see if we were good at following instructions and had the right skills–and a scrimage–a short game to see how everyone plays. Before the tryouts, people who showed up early got a tour of the TFC's facility in which the players practice, a tour lead by none other than Dwayne De Rosario. De Rosario is a retired soccer player and Canada's all time leading scorer, having shot 81 goals in his career, and is still a representative of Canada's soccer presence on a world scale. He's also one of the coaches for the Unified Team.
I knew that it would be a great opportunity to actually join the team and be able to play in Montreal, so I and everyone else did there absolute best. Given that I knew many of the Special Olympic players at the tryouts were more experienced in soccer and played on a higher division, I had no other plan than to try really, really hard. If I haven't made it painfully obvious by the fact I wrote so much about this, I made the team. Specifically, I'm one of the team's goalies, which is funny because the scrimage at tryouts was my first ever time playing net [I had to borrow my friend's gloves when subbing for him].
Since joining the team, I've become elected as one of the spokespeople for the team, and I went and will go to different screenings and shows to help represent Toronto's Unified Team. That does include an appearance on CP24's Breakfast show, which some of you may have already seen. If you haven't seen it, that's totally fine, I for one am typically waking up when the show ends. Before the broadcast, however, I also appeared for a commercial.
To help raise funds for Special Olympics, the TFC is holding a charity lottery for anyone willing to donate ten dollars to SO. The prizes are two former VIP seats of the BMO football field, which are covered with signatures of many of the TFC's players.
To make Toronto soccer fans aware of this prize, the TFC filmed an ad to post to its official sites. The ad starred four people, myself as a Special Olympic/Unified Team athlete, the CEO of Special Olympics Canada, the COO of Kia Motors, and the President of the Toronto Football Club. So, I basically shared a screen with VIPs.
The filming went really smoothly, everyone from cast and crew were very nice, and we had multiple takes so there was no pressure in messing up, so I wasn't at all nervous. It was pretty cool, seeing how they film things like this, put the wire up your shirt, set people and chairs up for one take, and how the business men make friendly small talk in between takes. I appeared on TV once before for an episode of Style by Jury, but I was too young to take notice of how the filming was done other than asking "why is there a camera crew on my lawn?" All in all, a fun and interesting day.
Later that week was our first practice as the Unified Team. It was really cool, they put our uniforms in the player's locker room; it was such a cool experience to walk in there and see a uniform with my name on it.
That was when I found out that I'm a keeper, which I'm honestly pretty excited about, since it's a different and less exhausting style of play. I'm also honoured to be trusted with such a game-making position as well, and it's interesting that my focus went from making shots to stopping them.
The practice itself was also a lot of fun, I gained some new skills and learned the ropes to being a goalie, I'm friends and teammates with one of the other players, and started getting to know everyone else. There's still more practices to go, and I'm looking forward to them.
I suppose I should cover my time on live TV. The video is below, for people interested in seeing it. I was a bit nervous before the broadcast, but I felt pretty calm during the filming. Basically, me and De Rosario appeared at the end of CP24's Breakfast show, and answered some questions about the Unified Team [which De Rosario answered], and my time in Special Olympics [which I answered, if you didn't guess.]
CP24 Appearance (<click for video clip)
Mostly my approach was the same as when filming the commercial: be calm, be natural and talk about the subject at hand. What really helped was, below the prompter which feeds the host her lines, they had a mini TV which gave us the live feed. That little thing helped a lot, because I knew if I was on camera or if it cut to a close up of someone else or showing pictures of soccer, so I could readjust my glasses and twitch a bit. And like that, the broadcast was over, we got up, and everyone complimented me on how great I did.
Two BIG important things I have to mention. First, everyone on our team all go VIP seating at the TFC game against the NYC FC tomorrow. I mention this, because at halftime, we're all going to appear on the field for the announcement of the Unified Team and its players. I'm not sure if that will appear on TV or not, since the half time shows are almost always where they put the commercial breaks.
The second thing is that I've been chosen as a Special Olympics ambassador to the soccer All Stars game that is starting in Chicago this week. My flight is on Monday and I'll be returning on Thursday. I and the other people going with me will be on a tight and adventurous schedule while there, which includes some training with the Real Madrid team. I had to explain to my mom who the Real Madrid were, by comparing them to basketball's Cavaliers. Needless to say, I'm really excited about the next five days.
So, that's it really. As I said, I'll write posts that go into everything in future detail, especially about my trip to the All Star game. Talk to you then.