SEATTLE – Seattle University women’s soccer Associate Head Coach Rich Schreiner served as Head Coach of Team USA at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, last month. Schreiner helped the U.S. team claim a bronze medal in its division at the prestigious event.
Schreiner, who will begin his 12th season at SU this fall, has been a dedicated advocate of Special Olympics throughout his time as a Redhawk. Last summer, he was the Soccer Sport Commissioner for the Special Olympics USA Games that were held in Seattle, including soccer competition at Championship Field and SU Park.
The following is a Q&A with Schreiner that has been edited for clarity.
What was your favorite memory from the experience?
“It was an incredible experience in every aspect, but my two favorite memories were on the field. First of all, the goals! Athletes (players with intellectual disabilities) scored and assisted our first five goals, including a scissors kick, a bent free kick and an unselfish layoff. I'll never forget watching the athletes score goals. Second, our draw versus eventual group winner, Denmark. They were big and tall and talented. Our right back, Michael Zunick, and our goalkeeper Ian Hartford were just unbeatable and the team dug deep to earn the draw.”
Describe the atmosphere surrounding the event.
“Abu Dhabi and Dubai couldn't have been a better host. People with disabilities are referred to as 'People of Determination' in the UAE, and our entire group was treated with deep respect and what reminded me of Hawaiian Hospitality. It was a cool experience to see the team being treated like world-class athletes.”
What does it mean for you to represent SU and the U.S. on a world stage?
“Experiences like this reinforce why I love working at Seattle University. As (Seattle University President) Fr. Steve Sundborg stated when Seattle U hosted the USA Games, 'The very same ideals espoused by the Special Olympics—accepting, including and empowering people with intellectual disabilities through sport—are consonant with who we are and aspire to be as a university.'"
It was extra special that our goalkeeper Ian Hartford is a sophomore at SU and assistant coach Madison Goverde, a full-time employee at Special Olympics Washington, is a Seattle U women’s soccer alumna.
What lessons will you take away from being part of the event?
“Never underestimate anyone and focus on ability.”
What was the game experience like, in comparison to a WAC or NCAA game? How many fans were there?
“It was closest to an NCAA Tournament game. There were hundreds of very loud fans at every game, maybe a thousand at the bronze-medal match. The playing surface at Zayed Sports City was perfect and reminded me a lot of Championship Field at Seattle U.”