In 1969, disabled students at Marshall U. High School fought for the right to play sports

Susie Jones shares the story of a coach and his players who changed the way disabled kids play sports
Disabled athletes Adapted Floor Hockey
Coach Prohofsky (right) with Susie Jones and two of his former Adapted Floor Hockey Players Charlie Brose and Mark Knutson. Photo credit (Audacy / Susie Jones)

For many years, students with disabilities were not allowed to participate in sports, but in 1969, students at Marshall University High School in Minneapolis fought for the right to play.

WCCO's Susie Jones had a chance to sit down with one of the original coaches, and some of the athletes who continue to carry on the dream of playing just like all the other kids.

Charlie Brose was born without legs, and never in a million years thought would he be able to take part in sports.  When he started at Marshall University High School in the 1970s, he was encouraged to join the floor hockey team.

“It became one of my greatest loves, you know, throughout my life,” Brose said.  “You know, playing the sports in Ed’s class and playing floor hockey games at such a high competitive level that there were days that you got on that floor and you knew you wanted to win. You had to try to win.”

Brose’s coach, Ed Prohofsky, was the physical education teacher at Marshall U. High at the time. He talked about another player on the team who had a suggestion.

“We had a young man named Jim Christy who came to me and said, you know, why can't we win letter jackets and letters like everybody else?” Prohofsky explains. “And I said, Jesus Jimmy, that's a good thing.”

Prohofsky and Christie, who passed away this past year, got to work creating the Adapted Floor Hockey League. And it was the first sport created for disabled students in Minnesota. During the 1974-75 school year.

In 1988 the Minnesota Special Interscholastic Sports Association was established, prompting Ed Prohofsky to work harder to get adapted athletics approved by the Minnesota State High School League. He recalled one of the speakers than who shared an unexpected story.

“You know, he said, I have a daughter, that's a good basketball player, and she got in a car accident and now she's playing wheelchair basketball,” Prohofsky told WCCO. “And he said if you people don't put this thing together, you don't belong in your job. And he sat down.”

Finally, in 1992, the high school league approved the measure. Susie asked the coach why he's been so committed to getting this done.

“The adapted program and Marshall University High School we're probably the best job that I had in my life. I don't mean that things I had were not an issue because they were and I love them too. But nothing was like Marshall U. High.”

Prohofsky’s daughter Susie added about her modest father, “That's just who he is. He doesn't see disability. He doesn't see color. He sees humans.”

Another former Prehofsky floor hockey standout joined Susie Jones for the conversation. Mark Knutson remembers joining the team.

“With Mr. Prohofsky as our gym teacher, he wasn't soft on us,” Knutson said.  “You know, you’d think, well maybe he'll give us a break being were disabled.  Yeah, that didn't really happen.  He kind of had that Army in him.”

Knutson went on to create a program for adults who want to continue to play floor hockey. He and Brose have also started a cable television show called “Disability Landscape”, where Prohofsky was the most recent guest.

The coach, again revealing during the show his tender and kind nature, described how he tried to help young athletes who didn't have arms find a way to play floor hockey.

“And I tried to tape stick into her prosthesis and she was having a real difficult time to try to get down and she wasn't really having a good time,” Prohofsky said. “I asked her if there was a way that you think we could play the game better. She says, well, could I just kick it with my foot? So that makes sense to me? So we started doing that. She became our best hockey player. And that that's better than winning the state championship.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: (Audacy / Susie Jones)