If you’ve read our previous posts you may be wondering, “Why is Power Soccer so important to you if it requires so much energy, money, time, and sacrifice?” True, power wheelchair soccer does require players and families to sacrifice a great deal. We sacrifice our Friday evenings to be at practice, we sacrifice our extra (or in some cases not so extra) money to buy chairs and to travel hours to practice and competitions, many players sacrifice their own limited energy stores just to participate. On our team, we have two players with Mitochondrial Disease, a rare condition that sucks energy from every body system requiring extra rest and hydration with any physical activity just to stay out of the hospital. There are multiple other disabilities for which power soccer causes a potentially damaging effect to our already fragile bodies, such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), other Neuromuscular Diseases. So why do we as players, coaches, and families choose to sacrifice so much just to “play a game?”
We do it because in the world of power soccer, we as players are equals. We are equal to each other, regardless our diagnosis, and we are the majority. Throughout our lives we are looked at as less than capable from our society as a whole. We fight harder to obtain employment, equal access to education, to have unrestricted access to various places, to just live a “normal” life. Most of all, we have to fight to be accepted into a society that has yet to fully accept us and our abilities.
Power Soccer is the first, and only internationally played sport, designed for us. It is our only option to play a competitive sport like our able-bodied and other disabled counterparts. Because of the Federation International Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA), and the United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA), we have been given the opportunity to become not just a person with a disability or someone in need of assistance, but a true athlete. We have been given the opportunity to display our abilities to others who may have doubted us. We have been afforded equal rights to play a competitive sport; a right that was not offered to power wheelchair users of the past. We have been given a platform to show the world that we do have value, even with severe disabilities.
Many of the adult athletes hold various jobs, many are unable to work for a multitude of reasons. Some hold positions on various boards within the community, some are college students, and some are volunteers, and others are advocates for our disabled community. Some spend all their energy each day just getting out of bed and functioning. Power Wheelchair Soccer gives us all a chance to break away from our daily lives and come together with a team of members who understand our daily struggles.
Power Soccer provides an outlet for those young players to break away from the teasing or bullying at school, the awkward stares in public, and gives them a place to feel 100% accepted. It provides young athletes positive role models with disabilities similar to their own to give them hope that they can accomplish whatever their dreams may be. It provides them with someone to confide in when their complicated life just gets to be a little too much for them to handle. It provides a space where each player is finally part of a majority.
We are the majority when we play power soccer. At tournaments, we don’t get awkwardly stared at, we don’t get unwanted pity, we get cheered for and congratulated for our accomplishments as any other athlete would. We have opportunities to meet up with friends from all over the country who understand and accept us for who we are. We get to suspend our normal routine of caregivers not showing up, feelings of doubt and worry about our future, being the one with the disability; and we get to be free to showcase our abilities to the world. We get to leave behind all those feelings of doubt, worry, and fear and just be free.
So, why do we sacrifice so much to play power wheelchair soccer? We do it because, in our lives, we already sacrifice so many things just to be alive, and when we are playing power soccer is when we truly feel Alive! Everything we sacrifice: our time, money, and energy, is worth the joy we feel when on the court. Being part of a team who appreciates us for our individual contributions is far greater than being without a team, a family, and living this life as a minority.
To help support our team, the Hot Shots, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To help support your local team, or an individual team member, go to facebook and Go Fund Me to find fundraisers, and take a look at my previous post “What it Takes to be a Power Wheelchair Soccer Player” for links to current fundraisers.
To learn more about Power Wheelchair Soccer, or Powerchair Football, check out these websites for information on how to get involved!
United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA)
Federation International Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA)