SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Many young men and women dream about representing the United States in athletic competition. More than 500 of those dreamers are currently making their dream a reality at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Coleman-Foster, 50th Space Wing, is fulfilling his dream as well, only he’s doing it half a world away in a sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee, but not yet part of the games - floorball.
Coleman-Foster will be part of Team USA during the Unihoc Riga Cup tournament in Riga, Latvia, Aug. 12-14.
“Something I’ve always dreamed of doing is representing this country, not just in the military, but in an athletic way,” Coleman-Foster said. “I was good at sports, but I don’t think I was ever good enough to be at that (Olympic) level. I feel like I found that niche with this sport.”
Floorball is similar to ice hockey in terms of basic concepts; however, floorball is played on a hard surface with a ball closely resembling a whiffle ball. The team structure is the same as hockey with three forwards, two defense and a goalie.
Coleman-Foster, an avid hockey fan, discovered floorball while watching YouTube videos to prepare for his inline hockey team.
“You know those corny commercials where the kid is sitting there bored and then the toy shows up and the kid’s like, ‘Whoa,’” he said. “That’s how I felt when I saw (the video). I was like, ‘I have to find some place to play this. I have to get involved in this.’”
At the time, Coleman-Foster was finishing a tour as a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and was unable to find anyone playing the sport in the San Antonio area. Knowing he was heading to Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, following his tour, he began looking for places to play in Colorado Springs.
“I saw the (bulletin) about Schriever’s floorball,” he said. “When I got here, I was asking questions. I was looking everywhere and then I found Monument floorball.”
One of the leaders of the Monument floorball group, Anders Burvap, also happens to be the Midwest regional director for USA Floorball and was impressed by Coleman-Foster’s energy and enthusiasm for the sport. It didn’t take long for Burvap, who recruits players for Team USA, to see Coleman-Foster wanted to represent his country.
“I usually try to recruit players who I pay attention to,” Burvap said. “(With Matt) it was more he referred himself.”
Coleman-Foster saw USA Floorball was looking for players to take to Riga and wanted to take advantage if the opportunity presented itself.
“I saw there was a need for players,” he said. “I felt between my hockey background and a lot of the feedback I was getting from people I was playing with that I had a shot. You never know if you’re going to get the opportunity if you don’t try.”
Adam Troy, USA Floorball executive director, said Team USA members are selected based on multiple factors.
“The participants are generally selected based on previous performances, as well as updates from the players themselves and scouting reports,” he said.
Coleman-Foster said he was all smiles when he received his official selection letter for the Riga Cup.
“I was humbled, definitely,” he said. “It felt good, it felt really good. I felt like I finally reached a dream.”
Once he made the team, the hard work really began. Because the players are spread across the country, they are responsible for creating their own training regimen.
“I did most of my work at Monument floorball,” Coleman-Foster said. “I’m very fortunate that the fitness center allows me to use their goals and use the basketball court to practice.”
He would often stay at the Schriever Fitness Center until it closed. On July 30, he got a taste of the competition he’ll face in Latvia during a tournament in Utah.
“That was really good for me to get my legs spinning again the way they should be for a game,” he said. “It was a good final test to see where I was at before I leave for Riga.”
Burvap said he was impressed with Coleman-Foster’s performance.
“He did very well playing forward,” he said. “He scored two goals, and very important goals I think because the whole team was kind of down. There was a period there where we hadn’t done so well, so (they were) two important goals.”
Troy said Team USA will definitely have its work cut out in Riga.
“We will be facing a team from Sweden as well as two from Latvia, so it will be some stiff competition,” he said. “Before the tournament, we will also face off with the Latvian national team in a friendly game. That will be real tough.”
Team USA is currently ranked No. 10 in the world floorball rankings. Aside from winning gold, both Coleman-Foster and Burvap said one of the goals for Riga is to move up in the rankings.
“Floorball in the U.S. is still developing so it’s hard, the other teams are so much stronger,” Burvap said. “The goal for each team is to advance in the ranking.”
“I think for the team as a whole, we need to just listen to each other and listen to the coaches,” Coleman-Foster added. “Keep our heads out of the clouds, stay level and focus.”
Even though he’s putting on a different uniform, Coleman-Foster knows he’ll still be serving as a U.S. representative.
“When we step out in this (Air Force) uniform, how we wear it, how we look, how we present ourselves how we talk and act, that’s scrutinized by everyone,” he said. “As Airmen, we’re ambassadors. The same thing goes for a national athlete. Being an Airman, I think, will help in this new journey.”
Team USA will play its friendly game against the Latvian national team Aug. 12. The Riga Cup will take place Aug. 13-14. A live stream of the tournament can be seen at www.sportacentrs.com.
For more information about USA Floorball, visit www.usafloorball.org.