Soccer With Heart: More Than a Medal

When Petes defenceman Matt McNamara signed up for a Peer Tutoring class for the second semester of his Grade 11 year, he wasn’t sure what to expect. What he left with were lessons and memories he won’t soon forget.

The St. Peter Secondary School student began peer tutoring with a special education class in early January. His day to day role consisted of assisting teachers with running activities and sports for the other students, and teaching students about healthy eating.

“I chose to peer tutor with that class because I felt it was important to give back to my classmates that may not have as many opportunities as I do,” stated Matt.

As the semester went on, the class’ focus narrowed in on the 2017 Special Olympics High School Championships, which took place at Brock University in St. Catharine’s in mid-June.

Matt played an important role with St. Peter’s unified soccer team, a group of Special Olympians along with a few “unified partners” – non-disabled students who assisted the team. As a unified partner, Matt assisted with teaching the team the fundamentals of the game, like rules and positioning. When it came time to play, he joined them on the field to offer support to the team, reinforcing the fundamentals they’d been learning up to that point. And, of course, he cheered them on throughout the tournament.

The unified soccer team would come home with a silver medal, and were welcomed home by 500 of their St. Pete’s classmates.

While the team was thrilled to win a medal, Matt feels the experiences he gained are worth just as much.

“It’s unbelievable how happy and excited [the Special Olympians] were to get to take part in the high school championships,” said Matt. “Their excitement is so genuine and can always cheer you up on a bad day. They bring out the best in everyone, and they definitely taught me to appreciate and enjoy every moment and opportunity you have.”

St. Peter’s Education Assistant Ernie Ellement, who is a coach in the special education program, thinks the students learned just as much from Matt as he did from them.

“It’s hard to put into words what Matt did for the students, but it was phenomenal,” noted Ellement. “He demonstrated incredible leadership throughout the semester and developed great rapport with each student. It takes a special kid to be able to step up and work with these students, and to create a positive environment for them. Matt is the kind of kid who makes everyone around him better.”

When asked what the best part of working with the team was, Matt didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Meeting all of the students, and becoming friends with them. It’s a great feeling to walk down the hallways and see them get so excited when you say hello,” added Matt.

Fans can see Matt and the rest of the Petes at the 2017 Training Camp in late August, which will include three exhibition games as part of a six-team HarborCenter OHL Showcase to take place from September 1 to 3 in Buffalo. The Petes will host one home game on Thursday, September 14 at 7:05pm against the Oshawa Generals.

The Petes will play their home opener on Thursday, September 21 at 7:05 pm against the Erie Otters.

To view the Petes’ full regular season schedule, click here. Special game nights, including the many community and charity games and events, will be announced later this summer. Petes season tickets and 10- and 20-ticket flex packages are on sale now. Fans interested in these ticketing options should contact Coordinator of Season Ticket Sales and Service, Steve Nicholls, at, or at (705) 743-3681 ext. 263.


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