Recently, Special Olympians from all over Northern Maine participated in the Northern Maine Special Olympic Soccer Tournament on the campus of the University of Maine-Presque Isle. The event annually held on the UMPI Park Family Soccer Field, was attended by more than 100 Special Olympic athletes, family members, fans and supporters from Aroostook County and beyond.
UMPI Head Men's Soccer Coach Alan Gordon and his team hosts the event each year and student-athletes from UMPI's Soccer Programs organize, coach and sometimes even play with the Special Olympians.
"Each year the UMPI student-athletes really enjoy the opportunity to coach the Special Olympic athletes on our campus. It gives our players the opportunity to give back to the community and share the love they have for the game of soccer," noted Gordon.
"We really enjoy this, I know the Special Olympic athletes look forward to playing, but for myself and all of my teammates, it is a trill as well," said UMPI senior midfielder Ryan Jones (Vinalhaven, ME.). "It is really gratifying to know we have made a group of people so happy,"
The tournament on the campus of UMPI is the culminating event of a full year of training. A common misconception is that Special Olympics consist of singular events such as this tournament, but the Special Olympian trains year around. Special Olympic training is designed to match each individual's skill level and just as any competitive athlete, the Special Olympian trains for many hours per week.