Davis Boggess, a graduate student at The Master’s University, had never heard of floorball. But when he was told that the Special Olympics of Santa Clarita needed a group to scrimmage against last month to prepare for an upcoming floorball tournament, he and his track and field and cross country teammates jumped at the chance.
“A couple of people reached out to Master’s,” Boggess said. “Master’s reached out to our coach and our coach reached out to me and then we probably came with 20 athletes and then we had probably 15 to 20 people from our team that just came to support and watch. It was very sweet.”
Floorball, according to the International Floorball Federation, is an indoor game played similarly to ice hockey. But, instead of playing on ice, it is played on hardwood floor; physical contact with an opponent (e.g., checking) is not allowed; and round balls are used instead of flat pucks.
“Each team has five field players and a goalkeeper on the field at the same time,” the federation’s website reads. “Floorball is played with plastic sticks and a very light ball and with a goalkeeper without a stick. The main objective in floorball is to score more goals than the opponent.”
The Special Olympics of Southern California adopted floorball this year in order to align itself with the World Games, according to Donald Zennie, one of the Special Olympics floorball coaches. Previously, the Santa Clarita branch had been playing floor hockey, which used much of the same equipment and rules as ice hockey, though with broom-tipped sticks.
“We were concerned about it because it’s so much faster than floor hockey and requires different skills, but even the lower levels seem to be taking to it,” Zennie said.
According to Boggess, the Special Olympics team needed to scrimmage on a Wednesday, and he was told about it on Monday. That left the TMU students without much time to prepare, and it showed at the beginning of the scrimmage held at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex.
“Once the game started, I think they got like six shots on goal before we got one,” Boggess said. “They were definitely beating us for a while.”
The TMU team got its act together in the end, though, with Boggess recalling that his team ended up winning, 7-4.
The score of the game wasn’t important to Boggess, he said. Instead, the simple fact that he got to help a group of people who needed help was the thing he’ll remember.
“It’s really sweet to get to know those different guys,” Boggess said. “You can kind of see just real quickly how they can be your friend. A lot of Special Olympics guys like hugs or high fives or that kind of thing. So, when we got there, it’s just really trying to enjoy those sweet times and just kind of play the sport with them and kind of have that camaraderie. It’s also just really cool because The Master’s University is a Christian school, so we’re always out there to share in the love of Christ.”
Zennie, who founded the Santa Clarita branch in 1998, said he was impressed with how quickly the TMU team bonded with the Special Olympians and expressed his thanks for their willingness to help on such short notice.
“Master’s enjoyed it so much,” Zennie said. “They hit me up saying, ‘We’d like to support you guys as much as we can. What can we do?’ And we’re excited to have them. We have a feeling this relationship is really going to mature and embellish and it’s going to be wonderful.”
The relationship is indeed going to continue. The two groups have agreed to host a basketball scrimmage at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex on April 19 to get the Special Olympics basketball team ready for its upcoming tournaments.
Boggess said that helping groups such as the Special Olympics goes with the teachings of the TMU track and field’s team Bible verse, John 14:35.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” the Bible verse reads. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”