GRAZ, March 19, 2017 – Crouching on one knee, the head coach of Estonia’s national floorball team Taiga Laur is giving feedback and tips to the athletes after a 7:3 defeat in a derby game against neighbouring Latvia.
Even though Laur is coaching athletes at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, she is as versatile as a Swiss army knife: a teacher, a composer and a whole lot more.
Laur is a legend in Estonian women's floorball. She was the first captain of the national team and a feared player in Estonia’s top league. There were not a lot of teams but that does not detract from Laur’s achievements.
Her love for floorball has roots that go back 20 years.
Laur, named the best Estonian female floorball player in 2007, says: "I worked at a small school and floorball sticks and goals were gifted to us in 1997. At the start we didn’t have anywhere to learn the game from.
"In 2002 the first floorball championship for women was held in Paide. There we got to know the rules."
Even though Laur, 50, retired from playing in 2012 she did not leave floorball. She works as a coach and as a referee.
'Sports and music go hand in hand'
Sports have always played a big part in Laur’s life. For example, she has been a goalkeeper in football and has played and coached basketball but her first love was athletics; Laur used to be a heptathlete.
Apart from being charge at a floorball club based in Järvamaa (a county in Estonia), Laur is teaches in three different schools. Besides physical education she teaches music at Nurme school which educates pupils with disabilities.
Even though she has not studied music, Laur is a composer too.
She has created more than 300 songs and two albums.
Laur says: "I'm in a band also, I mostly play the synthesizer and the guitar. This is the other side of my life. Music and sports go together hand in hand."
Laur does not write songs just for herself, she performs and gives concerts, often with her sister.
She says: "We've performed at libraries and have done several small concerts. Sometimes I read poetry to the audience between songs but there’s no problem if we have to play more joyful music to which people could dance to. I have a recording studio at home, I just have to press a button and I can start creating. That’s how I relax."
Laur has also published two collections of poetry.
Laur became the head coach of the Estonian Special Olympics floorball team thanks to her achievements with the athletes from Nurme school.
They won a tournament which opened the door for her because "people saw that I work with athletes with disabilities as well."
Her coaching style is based on a human approach. She explains: "I’ve never been a dictator, we do trainings through jokes and laughter. I don’t want life to be boring and dry. Of course, if I have to be demanding, I am."
Laur knows firsthand that every goal scored in the Special Olympics is of the upmost importance to the athletes -- "and that’s what we do here: we try to be joyful about the little things."
Like the vast majority involved with the Special Olympics, Laur is coaching the team as a volunteer.
She says: "It was the same with the training camps that we had before the Special Olympics as well. Nobody told me that they are going to pay me and of course, working as a volunteer requires sacrifices."
But she is not new to sacrifice.
Asked if she harbours any regrets, she says: "I've run around like a hamster on a training wheel all the time. I’ve given classes at school during the day, coached athletes in the evening and been to competitions in the weekends.
"I guess nobody would want a wife who’s away from home from morning until the late hours. Perhaps the fact that I don’t have a very busy family life is a regret. But I’ve never felt lonely, I’ve a lot of friends and the Special Olympics athletes are so genuine.
"They’re not fake: when they’re angry, they’re angry. When they’re happy, they’re really happy."
Follow Henry on Twitter @henryrull