Many individuals with disabilities are often stuck on the sidelines cheering on their favorite team, brother, sister, or other family member or friend. Especially those who use power wheelchairs. For decades there have been competitive sports for manual wheelchair users, but for power wheelchair users there really is only one sport dedicated to us, and that is power wheelchair soccer.
Versions of this sport have been around in Europe since the 1970’s, but it did not become the unified, international sport it is today until many years later. Multiple countries had their own versions of the sport, with their own unique rules of play. The United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA), created in late 2006 and headquartered in Carmel, Indiana, joined representatives from multiple different countries over many months to formulate unified rules creating the Federation Internationale De Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA) in 2006. These are now the standard rules each country abides by to allow for international games to be held.
So, you see, power wheelchair soccer is a fairly new, and still growing, sport compared to other wheelchair sports available. It has evolved from using everyday power wheelchairs rigged losely with milk crates or hard or flimsy plastic acting as guards, to having dedicated power chairs designed specifically for power wheelchair soccer. Strike Force chairs designed by the engineers at NEMI through the Power Soccer Shop were the first power wheelchairs designed specifically for power wheelchair soccer.
Everyday wheelchair adapted with rigid plastic guard.
Everyday wheelchair adapted with moldable plastic guard.
Strike Force Wheelchair from Power Soccer Shop
The sport itself has evolved with the evolving equipment. With better equipment you get more intense competition. These new wheelchair designs have helped power wheelchair users become just as competitive as any other sport (adaptive or able-bodied). However, the high expense involved in operating a power wheelchair soccer team, or being a power wheelchair soccer player, has made it difficult to grow as quickly as other adaptive sports. Each high quality power soccer wheelchair costs nearly $8000.00 for a base model. If you require extra adaptations, the cost can easily increase to well over $10,000.00 for one chair.
It’s no doubt that those who participate in this sport are dedicated. It is worth the extreme expenses involved in order to be a member of a competitive sports team like our able-bodied peers. Many sacrifices are made to be able to compete, and fundraising is a necessity for many individual players and teams just to compete each season. However, the reward of being able to play a competitive sport is well worth the effort that goes into raising funds every season.
New teams starting out will many times be required to utilize outdated equipment just to create the team. Living with a severe disability requiring a power wheelchair for mobility is expensive. These players pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for medical expenses, adaptive transportation, home renovations, etc. To add an elective sport on top of those expenses is sometimes too much for a family to take on. There are multiple grants available to adaptive athletes to help offset the cost of playing the sport, but these grants do not even cover one Strike Force chair. Therefore, teams, players, and families must get creative in order to finance their ability to play the sport.
A single team must pay $850.00 to register their team each season. Each tournament’s entry fees can run from $220.00-$350.00. Teams must play a minimum of 12 sanctioned games in order to be eligible to compete at nationals, which generally means they must compete in at least four sanctioned tournaments. The National’s Competition registration is $200.00 per player and registered staff member (minus $500.00 deposit taken from the team registration fees). Therefore, for a team of eight with two registered staff members, such as the Hot Shots, it costs an extra $1500.00 to register for nationals after the $500 deposit is taken from the initial team registration for the season.
The national tournament can be anywhere in the U.S., so some teams travel thousands of miles just to compete at nationals. The location changes yearly depending on team bids. Added expenses of flight tickets, gas costs, accessible van rentals, hotel fees, and food can add up to thousands of dollars for each member to attend nationals. This is in excess to the money already spent on attending multiple tournaments, lodging for those tournaments, purchasing equipment, and maintaining their soccer wheelchairs.
So you see, power wheelchair soccer is extremely expensive for players, families, and coaches. This is why fundraising and grants are so important to each team and team member. If you see a fundraiser for an individual player or team on social media, and you are able to help, your help is greatly appreciated! Below are a few fundraisers currently being hosted by teams or individual players.
To learn more about grants available to players and teams check out this blog post by Shirley Ryan from Ability Lab.
To learn more about the sport of power soccer check out this blog post by Michael S. Jeffress, Ph.D.
If you wish to donate to the Hot Shots, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org