League gives kids with disability chance to play varsity sports

It is the only league of its kind in Wisconsin. It is giving all kids a chance to play varsity sports and it’s right here in the Coulee Region.

The Mississippi Valley Conference Adapted Sports League gives high school students with disabilities the chance to represent their school on the field.

The league was formed three years ago, but one local coach said the growth he has seen already in his players is immeasurable.

With the drop of the puck, the floor hockey matchup up between the visiting Onalaska Hilltoppers and the Holmen Super Vikings gets underway Tuesday.

It didn’t take long for the game’s first goal, but the athletes of the adapted sports league said winning and losing doesn’t matter, they really just enjoying playing the game.

“My favorite is shooting on (the) goalie,” Holmen athlete Mai Houa Thao said.

“It’s fast-paced, you know what I’m saying,” Holmen senior Steven Patterson said.

“It’s fun to play with our friends,” Thao said.

“We’re a good team. We may have a little bit of issues here and there, but it’s whatever,” Patterson said.

The adapted sports league offers students with special needs the same opportunity to play sports as their peers.

“A varsity sport is something they’ve all, many of them, have dreamed about over time and we thought this program exists in Minnesota and it’s been so successful for some many years, why can’t we do that here?” Holmen coach Nicholas Slusser said.

Slusser said the life lessons his athletes are learning from playing on this team are things they can’t learn in the classroom.

He said in the beginning parents were skeptical of the league, thinking their child’s disability wouldn’t allow them to play sports. But the coach said every athlete he’s seen has been successful.

And that, he said, is the best part of being their coach.

“Seeing these kids smile. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what kind of school day they have, they come here and they just forget about anything that’s wrong in their life, they’re getting exercise, they’re making friends, they’re having fun, it’s well worth it,” Slusser said.

The MVC adapted sports league consists of four teams. Holmen, Onalaska, La Crosse Logan and Central high schools, but Slusser hopes more local high schools like La Cresent, West Salem and Sparta will start seeing the benefits of having a team for these athletes.

The adapted sports league has three sports. In the fall it’s soccer, winter is floor hockey and in the spring it’s indoor baseball. Each season finishes with a tournament held at one of the high schools.