Our Purpose

SNAP Sports provides individuals with disabilities the opportunity to engage in a variety of sports-based activities. Participants shatter the notion of commonly held limitations by accepting the challenge of competitive sports. Participants gain confidence and poise while becoming better equipped to manage their disabilities. Athletes who participate regularly, routinely develop the essential physical and social skills needed to improve their everyday lives.

Our 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 program at College of the Canyons in Valencia runs from August, and culminates in October with a travel tournament to San Diego and hosting duties for the annual SNAP Bowl in Cougar Stadium at COC. 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 April.