SNAP Sports provides individuals with disabilities the opportunity to engage in a variety of sports-based activities. Our athletes often shatter the notion of commonly held limitations, by accepting the challenge of more complex competitive sports. Players gain confidence and poise while becoming better equipped to manage their individual disabilities. Athletes who participate regularly, routinely develop the essential physical and social skills needed to improve their everyday lives.
2012: Partnered with the Ice Station Valencia and the Valencia Flyers Junior A Hockey Club who serve as the team’s ice activity and hockey partners. In association with the Ice Station Valencia, SNAP Sports created a year-round Developmental Skating School and seasonal Ice Hockey program for special needs athletes.
2013: SNAP Flyers become one of 60 ASHA sanctioned special needs hockey teams in the US. Third in the greater Los Angeles area. (VSF, California Condors and Pasadena Maple Leafs) Launched annual Skate-a-Thon fundraising event to support SNAP Sports programing. SNAP Cougars Flag Football joins SNAP Sports, continuing its relationship with Cougar Football at the College of the Canyons. Annual SNAP Bowl is established at Cougar Stadium. SNAP Cougars attend annual S4EA Bowl in San Diego.
2014: SNAP Sports hosts the inaugural SoCal Special Hockey Festival at the Ice Station Valencia. SNAP Flyers appear at Staples Center as part of the Annual Special Hockey Showcase during the intermission of a LA Kings game. SNAP Cheer is added to the Flag Football program
2015: SNAP Sports & United Commercial Travelers co-host UCT Winter Festival at Ice Station Valencia. In addition to the three LA area squads, teams from Virginia, Vancouver, Denver & San Diego attended. SNAP Flyers travel to Ottawa, Canada to compete in Special Hockey International 2015. 1,500+ special needs athletes participated over four-day tournament.
2016: Launched SNAP Roadrunners Distance Running Club, competing in regional 5K events. Travelled to Mammoth Lakes, CA for hockey exhibition and adaptive skiing weekend.
2017: Hosted the 6th Annual UCT Winter Hockey Festival. Recipient of annual/renewable grant from LA Kings Foundation.
2018: Purchsed multiple adaptive gait-training devices to teach skating. Expanding services to a wider range of disabled athletes beyond developmental disabilities.
2019: SNAP Flyers travel to Toronto, Canada to compete in Special Hockey International 2019. 2,000+ special needs athletes participated over four-day tournament. SNAP Flyers begin monthly home & away games to supplement Festival play.
To better serve the special needs population, SNAP Sports envisions an expansion which will allow a greater reach and impact on ours, and other communities. Operation Brick & Mortar would develop a national headquarters of operation for SNAP Sports. Within those walls, we would develop a multitude of athletes to participate in a wider variety of sports. The centerpiece of the Operation is a multi-use sports training facility which can act as a model for the franchising of SNAP facilities in California and throughout the US. From that single hub of operations, we will develop new and exciting partnerships that will drive national and global recognition for our programming. That recognition will provide countless local, national and international travel and fundraising opportunities. That same hub would act as a transportation center for athletes with special needs, many of which do not drive, providing buses to and from training and competitions. This training center will provide more opportunities for local school-based integration and participant volunteerism in its day-to-day operations. Ultimately SNAP Sports, through a variety of sports-based activities, is seeking to develop highly-valued members of the community, engaged in a positive way, regardless of their individual disability.
SNAP Sports programs provide the opportunity for regular, rigorous physical activity, disciplined team behavior and demonstrable moments of accomplishment. We encourage the use of peer athletes to accelerate this process, and the program welcomes all athletes with disabilities, who wish to expand their knowledge and skills of a team sport through the support of experienced coaches and skilled peers.
SNAP Sports was conceived and originally developed by veteran Special Olympics coach Rob Muir, to enhance what Special Olympics was offering. With his Flag Football program, Muir found that with the assistance of peer players (neuro-typical), he and his staff were able to teach far beyond what they had previously experienced with athletes with developmental challenges. New abilities were discovered. Confidence soared, knowing that together they were conquering a sport many would say was out of their reach. In February of 2012, Muir and Assistant Coach Beckie Warloe contacted some of their colleagues to see if they would be interested in a new challenge.
In March of that year, the Valencia SNAP Flyers Hockey Club was founded by a collection of special needs coaches responding to an increased interest from a small group of athletes. Having years of experience together, they committed to building a program whereby they could all participate in a more traditional, amateur-style sports setting, but for special needs athletes. This setting would include true competitive play, but only when it furthers the overall therapeutic goal. Participation has provided new opportunities for mobility, learning, and teamwork, as athletes discover an entirely different way of moving their bodies. These newly mined teamwork skills have proven to be a benefit both on and off the ice.
An example of these benefits comes from one particular 18 year-old athlete, Michael. In May of 2012, Michael was introduced to our skating program, and initially we found him to be non-communicative, with compromised motor skills, and parental separation anxiety. Our first several sessions were strictly off-ice to prepare him for what he wanted to do. Part of the training includes an “eyes-up” posture, and with that our first breakthrough, eye contact. On a slow but sure pace, Michael began to develop the confidence to take the ice, and from there a few steps, and from there a few strides. Now 18 months later, Michael is not only an expert skater and avid hockey player, but there is a warm greeting where there was silence, there is a helpful son where there was constant need, there is Mom who must wait with the other parents while Michael plays hockey with his new friends, and most importantly, there is a person who has a far better chance to flourish due to his experience with this program over the past two years.
Since its inception, SNAP Sports has provided a variety of activities that offer year-round opportunities for an underserved population. Our weekly Developmental Skating Program acts as a feeder activity for the SNAP Flyers Hockey Club. The Club travels regularly in the US and Canada for various tournament and showcase opportunities. Annually in January, SNAP Sports hosts the SoCal Special Hockey Festival at the Ice Station Valencia. The Ice Hockey program begins each year in November and runs through April, concluding with the annual Skate-a-Thon Fundraiser.
The SNAP Cougars Flag Football and Cheer programs at College of the Canyons in Valencia run from July, and culminates in October with a travel tournament to San Diego and hosting duties for the annual SNAP Bowl in Cougar Stadium at COC. The SNAP Roadrunners were established in 2016 and competed in several distance events throughout the summer and fall.
In addition to its sports activities, SNAP Sports offers a variety of social events throughout the year including sporting events, holiday parties and team banquets.
SNAP Sports will continually seek and develop new sports programs based on need, athlete interest, volunteer support, coaching experience and financial viability. Programs, sports and activities are open to all ages and genders and no sports experience is required. Equipment and instruction are provided by our experienced special needs coaches.
SNAP Sports is currently a privately-funded, 100% volunteer-only organization. Without the help of our generous donors and benefactors, a dynamic sports program such as this would be financially impractical for most of our participants who are reliant solely on SSI benefits. Throughout the year, we conduct several smaller fundraising initiatives that support the primary, annual fundraising event, Skate-a-Thon, held every Fall.
SNAP Sports Advisory Committee
ICE HOCKEY DIRECTOR
FLAG FOOTBALL & CHEER DIRECTOR
DEVELOPMENTAL & ADAPTIVE SKATING DIRECTOR
CRAIG MC CRARY