• Nick Zacharias

Mighty Victory at Special Olympics Quebec Championships


PHOTO COURTESY JAMES MAURAIS

Administrator and coach James Maurais (far left) stands with coach Gene Hay (in white) and the Special Olympics D2 Provincial Champion Mighty Hawks.

This past Saturday, with a swell of pride, the Mighty Hawks of Vaudreuil-Soulanges won Gold at the Special Olympics Quebec provincial soccer championships in the D2 division. Played in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the tournament saw the Mighty Hawks dominate in an undefeated run against teams from all across the province – an impressive performance for a team formed just two years ago.

Coach James Maurais, a father of three kids with special needs (two of whom play on the team) first approached the Saint-Lazare-Hudson Soccer Club in conjunction with Special Olympics Quebec and formed the team in order to establish more athletic services for special needs kids in the region. The response has been great.

“D2 is the lowest division, but these kids worked hard and really came out winners,” said Maurais, “and our coaching staff is absolutely A1.” Their performance means the team will move up to D1 next year, and that comes with a shot at qualifying for the National Special Olympics Championships.

The Mighty Hawks practice outdoors at Brazeau Park (in Saint-Lazare) in the summer and in the gym at Birchwood Elementary School in the winter, and they welcome neuro-diverse boys and girls ranging from those with severe Autism to Down Syndrome to ADHD.

“We have a lot of different kids who all come together to play as a team with tons of spirit,” said Maurais. They play in scheduled tournaments and matches, and they’ll even pick up games against high school and house league teams with ‘neuro-typical’ players.

The fun and athletic spirit doesn’t end with soccer, either. The Vaudreuil-Soulanges branch of Special Olympics Quebec (SOQVS) offers a number of other activities for kids with intellectual disabilities in a safe and fun environment. Sports on the calendar for 2019-2020 include basketball, swimming, bowling, floor hockey, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

For anyone wanting to join a winning team, for soccer or one or more of the above activities, James is happy to provide all the details and he can be reached at soqvaudreuilsoulanges@gmail.com.

As for this year’s soccer squad, they are on a high and looking forward to more. Says Maurais, “They are super happy. They were so proud to represent Saint-Lazare and Vaudreuil-Soulanges at the provincial finals – some of the games were tough, and sometimes they got knocked down a bit, but they always got back up and kept going. These kids have the hearts of lions.”

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