Special Olympics Minnesota athletes compete in Poly Hockey Tournament

Special Olympics Minnesota athletes with intellectual disabilities competed at the Area 7, 11 and 13 Poly Hockey Tournament in Inver Grove Heights on Sunday.  Their fans are some of the best, and their attitudes are even better.

“We lost in our first game, but that’s not going to run us down cause we have the next game at 3:55,” player Abby Hirsch said.

Poly hockey allows SOMN athletes to train and compete in an adapted form of ice hockey using plastic sticks and soft plastic pucks in a rink covering the surface of a gymnasium floor. But what’s really impressive, is the way a game has changed their lives.

“I was afraid at first, but now I'm not because I have great friends who are supportive and that's what I need,” Hirsch said.

The tournament is not only a qualifier for the state and national tournaments, it's an opportunity for both players and volunteers to leave their insecurities at the door.

"The Special Olympics has helped me in many ways,” player Allie Henley said. “I grew up being shy but the Special Olympics helped me come out of my shell."