Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Different Kind of Powerball, Episode 2

Hello, friends.

As you may recall, a while ago I posted this project when I was first learning about the sport of Power Soccer and how it is expanding here in the Pacific Northwest. Well, I had to take a hiatus due to other life circumstances, but, starting in May, I was able to pick up the sport again now that it has gotten restarted.

With a whole new set of people  involved, that  means many opportunities for team events, practices, and skill-building.  With that in mind, a few of us from Seattle Adaptive Sports  were able to travel June 25th to the B.C. Provincial Power Soccer Championships in Cloverdale, B.C. This event was  put on by SportAbility BC, an organization that I was already familiar with because of my brief time at Camp Squamish in 2009.

For me, this was the first time I had seen a live game in action, other than played by my former teammates at Paralympic Sport Alaska. It was amazing to see the game played with the proper equipment, speed, and finesse. When growing a sport such as this, a regulation scrimmage with  eight players is much different than what we now have the opportunity to practice with three to four  players.

I was able to catch up with SportAbility executive director Ross MacDonald about the game. "Power soccer has been going on for probably over 20 years," he said. MacDonald noted that the sport has been a part of his organization for five or six years. His organization is also responsible for other sports, such as sledge hockey, boccia ball, and seven-a-side soccer.

I also had a chance to talk with player Keith Knight, who has been playing the sport for about 24 years, after learning about it from a  family member at a local rehabilitation  hospital. Knight has played for several teams, including a Canadian national team at the FIPFA 2011 World Cup in Paris, which he noted as a favorite experience.

This  tournament consisted of four teams composed of four individually registered players plus  two extra subs. As these are not competitive teams, most of the competitors had played with each other in other venues or practices. There were nine games in total, as well as classification and speed testing practice sessions. The first game I had the opportunity to watch was the Thunder versus the Hurricane. I was not only impressed by the speed and precision of the game, but also the equipment. This was the first time I got to see sport power chairs in action. They are faster and lighter than my everyday Beastmobile and frequently do not have the spin safety  inhibitor that restricts the spin kick, which is absolutely crucial in power soccer, when the game becomes much more a game of high-speed pinball as it should be, with the 13-inch ball being shot across the court at frightening speeds!

"If you have a power chair and you want to play, you'll get a guard that goes on the front of your chair-- whether it's plastic or metal is really up to you-- and it's all about controlling the ball, " MacDonald said.

The equipment setup is unique for every person, as it fits their support and mobility needs. Some have bought these specialty sports chairs for play, usually acquired through fundraising or other donations, while others, like Knight, continue to use their personal equipment for play, although Knight said he is in the process of getting a sport chair, which he is excited about.

He also said he enjoys playing offense more, but his favorite moments included blocking a crucial goal in preparation for the championship.

But MacDonald's favorite moments are more about the bigger picture.
 "My favorite moments are when new players have moments of success. You know, they're new to it, they're still trying to figure out the game, because they're playing with players at a higher level. But whether they make a great pass or a great play, or the best part, they score a goal, and then you see the smiles on their faces."

That's enough for me to be back again. In a jersey.

But, let's be real, I'm a little more competitive than that!

You can learn more about Power Soccer here.

Image: Three people in power chairs and one person standing are visible on a basketball court. The woman in the foreground has a white jacket and a yellow jersey hanging on the back of her chair. There is a man appearing to play with her, wearing a white shirt, yellow jersey and jeans. A woman is slightly visible in the background wearing a white shirt and a green jersey. The coach is a woman with dark hair standing in the background, holding a clipboard. 

Three players are visible on the court, all are in power chairs. One man is wearing a yellow shirt with a black chest strap.  A green foam block is visible on his knees. There is a man behind him wearing a red jersey. The third man is facing away from the camera, wearing a green shirt. The blue cushions on his wheelchair are visible. Spectators are visible throughout the window in the background.

Image:A wide shot of the court with six players visible, wearing red or green jerseys. Player Keith Knight is on the left in a yellow jersey. Various officials are seen standing in the background

Image: SportAbility BC executive director Ross MacDonald, smiling from his manual chair. He is white with short brown hair, wearing a navy blue SportAbility jacket, gray athletic pants, and bright blue sneakers. Background is the lobby of the recreation center, which has a wall painted to look like the Northern Lights. 

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