South Suburban Adaptive Teams

The South Suburban adaptive teams have more objectives than scoring points.
D'Anne Briggs with her daughter Sheridan, who plays hockey for the Flyers, a team for students who are physically impaired.

It’s about achieving goals—not just scoring them.

From the seventh-grade girl yet to push the puck past the goalie to the senior boy who has lost count of goals scored, the aims of athletes overcoming cognitive and physical challenges are richer than statistics.

Sheridan Briggs, 13, and Zach Minn, 18, are members of South Suburban adaptive sports teams, a cooperative of students from Edina, Richfield, Eden Prairie and Bloomington Kennedy and Jefferson high schools. The Jets, for students with cognitive impairment, and the Flyers, for students who are physically impaired, play on a varsity level in indoor soccer, softball and floor hockey.

Back in 1992, the Minnesota State High School League became the first activity association in the nation to sponsor adapted athletic programs. Today, the Flyers and Jets play against teams from across the state in the Minnesota Association for Adaptive Athletics.

“On this team, everyone does things differently, and she is just one of the gang,” D’Anne Briggs, Sheridan’s mother, says of the Flyers floor hockey team.

Sheridan and her twin sister, Sydney, were born nine weeks premature. Sheridan has weakness in her right side. She is a little shy, but had the courage to go out for the team after playing floor hockey during physical education class. She connected with the puck in an early winter practice—which was a first.

“It felt really good to be able to do that,” she says. “I was happy.”

D’Anne Briggs noticed a change in Sheridan after her first few practices. “It has given her this inner confidence,” Briggs says.

Briggs, her three other daughters and some of Briggs’ nine siblings planned to travel to Rochester to watch Sheridan play in a tournament. “They are pumped,” says Briggs .

But the excitement and successes didn’t happen overnight.


“At first, I was fearful about what could happen,” says Briggs, who worried about how Sheridan would respond to extra hours away from her mother’s care as she rode the bus and exerted herself during practice. “But I think it was the best thing for her.”

The spark in Sheridan is standard for athletes who participate in the South Suburban squads.

“Just seeing their face light up when they made contact with the ball or got on first base was really neat,” says Amy Aunan, a development adaptive physical education teacher and former Flyers softball coach. Equally gratifying, she says, was seeing their parents in the crowd “excited that they were on the team, they were successful and the joy that that brought them.”

In six years with the Jets, Zach Minn has improved his skills so that he now scores goals at a prolific pace, and he is working on setting other goals. Minn, who has developmental cognitive disabilities, sometimes has had to calm himself during games and remember to encourage teammates. He has since earned a role as a team captain.

“I have tried to be more friendly and not as controlling,” Minn says. “Now, I take deep breaths and I cheer them on, and that was the smart thing to do.”

Aunan marvels at the drive of the athletes. She recalled one player needed to creatively cup the bat beneath one arm to be able to swing it; another ran the bases despite being legally blind.

“It shows me that a lot of the kids that played had the determination to be a part of the team,” Aunan says.



To learn more about the Minnesota Association for Adaptive Athletics, visit