I'm just going to leave this here as I continue to create a portfolio for my digital journalism work. As we like to say, I hope this gives you a new insight into boldly going where every man (or woman!) has gone before. Full disclosure: I am somewhat involved in this program, but I chose to talk to people that I hadn't spent a lot of time with. I hope you enjoy!
A different kind of powerball
Picture the all-too-familiar adrenaline rush that comes with pounding a soccer ball straight into the goal. Now picture a game of bumper cars. Put the two together and what do you get?
Founded In the 1970s by a couple of innovative teachers whose students didn't have the gross motor skills to play traditional soccer, power soccer (or powerchair football, as it is internationally known) is a competitive sport that combines the techniques and strategy of the athlete with the maneuverability of his or her power wheelchair. Athletes who play power soccer may experience a variety of disabilities including, but certainly not limited to muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, and traumatic brain injury (TBI)/ stroke. For many of the athletes, such as Kris Napper, this is the first time they have ever gotten to play a competitive sport. Napper has been playing with the Tacoma Rolling Thunder for about five years now, and just recently joined the newly forming Seattle team, unofficially dubbed The Thinkers.
A game of power soccer consists of four players on each team who all use power wheelchairs. In professional play, there is a classification system that assigns each player a certain number of points based on his skill level or motor ability. During any given game, only a certain number of points can be out on the court at any one time, so as to ensure that one team does not have an unfair advantage over the other. Players then try to use their chairs to roll the ball, an enlarged 13 inch version of a soccer ball, into the goal against the opposing goalie, similar to traditional soccer. There are two governing organizations that oversee official gameplay here in the US: United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA) and La Fédération International de Power Football Association (FIPFA) which is based in France.
There are two big differences to be seen between traditional soccer and power soccer: the equipment and the venue. Power soccer is played on an indoor basketball court on a relatively flat surface, so as not to damage the chairs with inclement weather or any other environmental barriers. Since most athletes need to use these chairs in their everyday lives, it is essential that they be kept in working order. In a similar way, there is a different method of moving the ball around so as to protect the athlete, known as the guard. The soccer guard is usually a metal or plastic device that goes around the front of the chair, so as to protect the athlete's legs and feet, similar to a cow catcher on the front of a train. The player uses the surface of the guard to move the ball around the court. Even though it is a noncontact sport, collisions are inevitable, and sometimes things may get a little high-octane.
When asked what's in store for this new Seattle team, head coach Caleb Hecker remained optimistic. He pointed out that every athlete has made “undeniable” improvement, and envisions quite a bit of expansion for the future. This team, a program of Seattle Adaptive Sports, just started earlier this fall. Hecker envisions a considerable increase in players within various age groups so that a competitive team may be formed in order to scrimmage against other teams and possibly move on to a higher level of play.He acknowledges, though, that this team is just getting started. Perhaps as a consensus among athletes and coaches, one coach put it best when he said that power soccer “really is a lot of fun.”
Additional source: United States Power Soccer Association