If you follow power wheelchair soccer at all online or on social media, you’ve probably seen many fundraisers, Go Fund Me Accounts, and other forms of request for money from teams and players. Some may tire of opening up Facebook and being bombarded by requests for their money. Let me explain to you why these fundraisers are so important.
The sport of power wheelchair soccer is extremely expensive for teams and individual players. Each team must pay $850.00 to USPSA just to register the team each season ($350.00 goes toward registration and $500.00 is the down payment for the National Championship held in June.) On top of the initial registration fee, the teams must pay between $200.00 and $350.00 for each tournament in which they participate. If a team is not sponsored by a corporation, they rely completely on fundraising to ensure their ability to compete.
Each tournament usually guarantees three to four games for each team. In order to qualify to play in the National Competition, each team must have played 12 sanctioned games by April 30th. That means each team must play in at least three if not four tournaments to qualify for Nationals. This season, the Hot Shots spent roughly $1,000.00 registering for four different tournaments, which was required to ensure our participation at the National Championship. Each team must also pay $200.00 per registered player and staff member for the remainder of the Nationals fee by May 1st of each season. For the Hot Shots, that’s an additional $1,500.00.
Just to participate in the games, each team must spend between $3,400.00 and $3,700.00 depending on the size of the team and which competitions they attend. On top of entry fees for competitions, teams must purchase uniforms, insurance through USPSA, practice equipment, and sometimes they are required to pay for gym space to practice if they cannot find a place to donate the gym time. This can easily add up to over $4,000.00 a season just for team expenses of registering for tournaments, practice space, team insurance, uniforms and practice equipment.
On top of team expenses, each player and their families have significant expenses just to participate in the sport. Because the sport is not as widespread as other sports, team members must travel upwards of one to two hours (or more) just to attend weekly practice. Many times tournaments are not in the same city or state as the team. Therefore, team members must travel multiple hours or even days, and hundreds to thousands of miles to get to tournaments. They spend money out of pocket for one to three days in a hotel which can add up to over $200.00 to $300.00 per player for each tournament. These travel costs add up quickly for each team member and their family. Sometimes the teams provide a per diem to cover some of the hotel costs for families, but this just depends on how much money they team is able to raise throughout the season.
Travel to and from practice and games puts wear and tear on many of our very expensive wheelchair accessible vans. A new wheelchair accessible vehicle costs roughly between $60,000.00 and $80,000.00, and used vehicles are usually between $20,000.00 and $50,000.00, so it is important to keep them maintained regularly. The added wear and tear on the vehicles for traveling needs to be factored into the finances of the family. People who require specialized wheelchair accessible vehicles do not have the luxury of simply using another vehicle if their vehicle goes down.
The National tournament can be held anywhere in the country, and typically changes location each year. Therefore, some teams who are in the opposite side of the country have to fly to get there. This process is not as easy as stepping on a plane and flying to another place like our able-bodied peers. Multiple wheelchairs must be transported causing an increased risk of damage to equipment. Brendan Dorsey states that new reports indicate that an average of 25 wheelchairs are damaged each day by airlines. One popular disabled traveler and blogger, Curb Free with Cory Lee, gives advice about what to do if your wheelchair is damaged by airlines. He has had a couple of damaged wheelchairs throughout his travels. Some people with certain disabilities have many difficulties flying, causing a risk of injury during seat transfers, inability to safely utilize the in flight restroom, among other risks. This is one reason why the All Wheels Up organization is pushing to make all airlines wheelchair accessible so a passenger can stay in his or her wheelchair during the flight. Airline travel is currently the only form of public transportation that is not wheelchair accessible.
Once the team arrives at the location for the National Competition, they must all be able to rent wheelchair accessible vans for multiple days during the three day competition. This can be costly and difficult to obtain the number of vans needed to transport the entire team and their equipment. Typically, the cost of getting to the site of the National Competition falls on the family unless the team does fundraisers to help offset that cost. Many teams who have to travel across the country report spending up to $3,000.00 per family just to transport their players to and from Nationals, and provide lodging and meals for the three day event. Without fundraising, most times this expense is put on the family to pay the costs.
On top of all these costs just to play at the games, each participant is responsible for obtaining the appropriate equipment needed to play the sport. That means they must be able to obtain a soccer wheelchair. Currently, the best soccer wheelchair on the market is the Strike Force Wheelchair made by Power Soccer Shop. The base price for one of these chairs is $7,900.00 plus shipping (unless you drive to their location in MN to pick it up). For players with more severe disabilities, adaptations to the chair must be made. For example, if you need a headrest, specific footrest, contoured armrest, hard back, tilt function, or center mounted or chin joystick the price goes up. Each addition could cost anywhere from $75.00 to $2,000.00 or more. For some people, this means a properly fit Strike Force Wheelchair could cost them upwards of $15,000.00.
Most families don’t have the funds to obtain a Strike Force Wheelchair. The player is then required to play in a used, older model power soccer wheelchair which cannot compare to the Strike Force Wheelchair. This puts the team at a disadvantage when playing against teams who all possess Strike Force Wheelchairs. Currently, the Hot Shots have two players who own a Strike Force Wheelchair, and one player who is using a borrowed one. The remaining four players play in used Quickie P200’s, and one player uses a used center wheel drive wheelchair.
Most teams who are not sponsored don’t have the funds to pay the initial entry fees and tournament fees, let alone assist the families and players with offsetting the cost of travel or chair purchases and maintenance. This is why fundraising is so important for Power Wheelchair Soccer Teams and their players. Without sufficient funds, these athletes would not be able to play the sport they love.
Power Wheelchair Soccer is the ONLY worldwide, competitive sport for power wheelchair users. This is the only option for kids with severe disabilities to participate in sports like their able-bodied peers. Without Power Wheelchair Soccer, these kids would not have a chance to showcase their sports talents and abilities.
The Hot Shots have four players under the age of 15. This is why we implore you to help us fund our team. Help us to be able to continue to grow the confidence and talent in these young players. Help us to show them that they can participate and excel in a sport that they love. Without the generosity of our supporters, we would not be able to continue to mold these youngsters into the confident athletes they have the potential to be. Alexandra Momyer outlines the importance of sports for disabled youth in her article, “The Importance of Sports & Recreation to Disabled Youth”. Without your support, these young athletes would be forced back to the sidelines watching their able-bodied peers play the sports that they love. If they were unable to play, it would negatively affect them in many areas of their lives.
If you are unable to support us financially you can support us by sharing our story on social media, following our Facebook Page, and telling your friends about our cause. Thank you for your support!
If you wish to donate to the Hot Shots to help us improve our equipment, pay for tournaments, and provide financial relief for our families please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can donate through Pay Pal by sending money to email@example.com
Or, you can mail a check made out to Hot Shots to: PO Box 212, Greenfield, IN. 46140