Teamwork, joy, friendship found on the soccer field at Tigard High School

DAN BROOD - Members of the Tigard Unified Soccer teams gather following their match on May 28.TIGARD — Time was running out.

The score was 7-6.

The large, enthusiastic crowd watching the sun-soaked soccer match at Tigard High School was going crazy.

At that point, a tall striker named Tyler Tanz seized the opportunity to be a hero. Tanz, taking control of the ball, fired a shot into the goal with just 22 seconds showing on the clock. Tanz, jumped into the air and celebrated with his teammates after scoring the goal, which tied up the game.

Soon after, time ran out, leaving the Tigard 1 and Tigard 2 teams in a 7-7 deadlock.

And, while neither team was victorious, in actuality, everyone won — absolutely everyone.

If for no other reason, you could tell that by all of the cheers, the high fives, the smiles of accomplishment, the hugs, the camaraderie and, well, the many, many tears of joy.

DAN BROOD - Yussef Fakin (back), a 2015 Tigard High School graduate, celebrates with Tyler Tanz after Tanz scored a goal during the unified soccer match held May 28 at the school. “It was incredible,” Sela Brazier, a 2015 Tigard High School graduate said, looking back on that soccer match played May 28 at the high school.


It’s a word that could be used over and over again when talking about the Unified Soccer team that was started up by Brazier, and was greeted with enthusiasm and exuberance by Tigard High School.

“The best part of it, is that it’s life-changing,” Brazier said. “It was for me. And I think it was for the players and for their parents. It was incredible.”

DAN BROOD - More celebration during the unified soccer match played at Tigard High School.What it is

Unified sports, run in conjunction with Special Olympics of Oregon, pairs players with intellectual disabilities with partners, and put them on the same team.

At Tigard High, that was done with the Unified Soccer team.

“They’re doing things that the other kids do,” said Brad Franklin, who is a Special Education teacher at Tigard High School. “That’s the big thing.”DAN BROOD - Sela Brazier, a 2015 Tigard High School graduate, founded and organized the unified soccer program at the school.

“Everyone was playing on the same team, and I think everyone learned from each other,” Brazier said.

Getting started

Brazier was looking forward to her senior year on the Tigard High School girls track and field team.

After a promising sophomore season, where she excelled in the sprints and the long jump, Brazier ended up missing her junior season after having shoulder surgery.

“This was supposed to be my comeback year,” said Brazier, who was the valedictorian of Tigard High School’s class of 2015.

But, before the 2015 track season started up, something else took precedence for Brazier.

“A good friend of mine started a unified basketball team at Sherwood,” she said. “And I love working with special education students. So I thought about starting a unified soccer team here at Tigard.”

DAN BROOD - Camaraderie and teamwork were two big aspects of the unified soccer program at Tigard High School.But, with such a time commitment required, even someone as motivated and driven as Brazier couldn’t do everything.

“I had to choose,” she said, referring to track and unified soccer. “And I decided on the unified team.”

With that choice came a lot of work.

“I pursued the idea,” Brazier said. “I got all the paperwork together and presented it to (Tigard High special education teacher) Danielle Johnson.”

“We were really excited to have it started here,” Johnson said.

“It’s a Special Olympics thing, and Sela was excited to bring it here,” Franklin said.

DAN BROOD - A player on the Tigard High School Unified Soccer team takes a shot during the match held at the school back on May 28. But there was still even more work to do.

“I had to contact Special Olympics, and also get the fields and transportation all set up,” Brazier said.

And she had plenty of help with those tasks.

“We’ve had so much support from the school,” Johnson said. “That really helped so much.”

“The school was great,” Brazier said. “I think this is now something that Tigard is now known for.”

DAN BROOD - The Tigard High School Tiger mascot greets one of the players during the unified soccer match held at the school. Fielding a team

Brazier started the Tigard unified soccer team with modest expectations.

“My goal was to get 10 players (total), which would give us enough for one team,” she said.

There ended up being 29 players in the program.

“We had enough to split into two teams,” Brazier said. “That was incredible. And all of the players got to wear a Tigard jersey and do what the other kids do.”

DAN BROOD - There were plenty of smiles seen at the Tigard High School unified soccer match.The challenges

Fielding a team is one thing, but teaching the aspects of soccer was something else.

That’s a challenge that was faced by Brazier and the other playing partners on the team, including Joseph Lea, a 2015 Tigard High School graduate who was a Three Rivers League boys soccer honorable-mention all-league pick last fall.

“You have to learn to teach things differently,” said Lea, who will play soccer at Spokane Falls Community College this fall. “I really feel like I’ve learned how to communicate better, and I’ve learned patience. And, honestly, it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in high school.”

DAN BROOD - There were also plenty of celebrations during the match held May 28 at Tigard High School.The rewards

According to Brazier, everyone involved in Tigard High School Unified Soccer program has benefitted from the experience.

“I think that many friendships were formed,” Franklin said. “It makes me proud to teach here.”

“It’s been rejuvenating to these kids,” Johnson said. “And they’re learning teamwork. The core is friendship.”

“And fruit snacks, too,” Franklin added with a smile. “That’s a big deal.”

“This is so much fun,” Lea said. “It means so much being part of something that is so big to so many. Watching others that love this sport as much as I do is very special.”

It’s easy to tell that Brazier has relished in the experience — you can hear the emotion in her voice as she talks about it.

“Honestly, this was so rewarding,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. My faith, and a lot of prayers, went into this. It was a humbling experience. It’s the best thing I’ve been a part of.”

DAN BROOD - Enthusiasm and support were found everywhere during the unified soccer match held May 28 at Tigard High School.Tigard game day

The Tigard High School unified soccer teams played a full season of matches, but, the big game of the season seemed to be the Tigard 1 vs. Tigard 2 contest played May 28 on the turf soccer field at Tigard High School.

It was the only home match of the season for the Tiger teams.

That day, the grandstands was packed full of spirited fans ready to watch the contest.

“It was incredible,” Brazier said. “It was so cool to look out into the crowd and see all of the new faces. It was more than I could every ask for.”

With Pedro Simonetti, a Tigard High senior-to-be and a standout goalkeeper for the Tiger varsity boys soccer team, serving as referee, the two Tigard teams jumped into action.

Soon after, the first goal was scored.

“After that goal, hearing everyone cheer so loud was so special,” Brazier said.

There were plenty of special moments to follow.

The the Tigard High School Tiger mascot revving up the crowd from the sideline, both teams were giving it their all — much to the delight of the fans in the grandstands, and to the players on the field.

DAN BROOD - Members of the Tigard High School Unified Soccer teams share a round of applause following the match the teams played May 28 on the Tigard High School turf soccer field.“This was heart-wrenching for me,” Lea said. “I got real emotional when I watching Mitchell (one of the players with intellectual disabilities) when he scored, turned around and put his arms up in the air.”

And, of course, the match went down to the wire, with Tanz scoring the tying goal with just 22 seconds left to play on the clock.

And, when time ran out with the teams tied at 7-7, the big celebration began.

“That was the perfect way to end it,” Brazier said. “No one was upset. Everyone was really happy.”

The Tigard 1 team went on to win the championship at the season-ending, state-wide tournament held May 30 at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

Tanz, again stepping up in the clutch, scoring the game-winning goal in the closely contested title match.

“That was just so cool,” Brazier said of the championship. “They called up each of the players by name and put the medal around their neck. I’m sure it was the first time for their parents to see something like that. It was so special, I was tearing up.”

The future

Brazier, in the fall, will be attending Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. But, she knows, the Unified Soccer program at Tigard High School is in good hands.

“We’ve got three underclassmen stepping up to help,” she said. “And I’m going to keep following it.”

It sounds like the special times, and the smiles, the teamwork, friendships, camaraderie, and, of course, the unified soccer, will keep going strong at Tigard.

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine