May 23, 2006
Free clinic introduces soccer for power wheelchair users
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Imagine a basketball court filled with soccer players chasing an oversized ball.
Now put those same players in power wheelchairs and you’ll have conjured one of the latest crazes in adaptive sports—Power Soccer.
The Jackson area will get a taste of the fast-paced game on May 30 when members of the Tampa Thunder Power Soccer team conduct a free clinic at the Downtown YMCA in Jackson.
The event is sponsored by Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s therapeutic recreation program, and program director Ginny Boydston of Jackson says it’s something she’s been looking forward to for a long time.
“There aren’t a lot of team sports out there for power wheelchair users, so I’m thrilled that we’ve gotten a chance to introduce Power Soccer to this area,” Boydston said.
“Thanks to a donation from Ameristar Casino Vicksburg and the support of the YMCA and the Tampa Thunder, kids and adults are going to be able to take advantage of an activity that is steadily growing in popularity.”
In the U.S., there are about 30 competitive teams that play internationally, said Jessi Navarro, director of public relations for the Florida-based Tampa Thunder.
Teams are typically coed and include people with quadriplegia, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, head trauma, stroke and other disabilities. The most competitive teams play in Division 1, while Division 2 includes mostly recreational and beginner players.
The 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. clinic will teach participants ages 7 to adult the rules and strategies of the game and provide plenty of time for practice. Players will learn to push the ball using a plastic guard that wraps around the base of their wheelchairs.
The guard protects their feet and chairs. Even so, “people are timid at first because they don’t want to hurt their chairs,” Navarro said. “But once they get into it, they don’t want to get off the court. They are buzzing.”
Unlike the notoriously rough sport of quad rugby (also known as Murder Ball), Power Soccer is more about finesse than force. “It’s not like quad rugby where you plow into everybody,” Navarro said. “This is about passing and setting up blocks to create paths for the ball.”
Navarro, who also referees for Power Soccer games, said she got involved in the sport through her husband Elio, who plays for the Division 1 Tampa Thunder. “He has absolutely loved it,” she said. “It has been a great opportunity for him to meet people with other disabilities. The team is like a family.”
Kids, in particular, seem to blossom when they start playing, Navarro said. “Parents see the most benefit because their kids start coming out of their shells.”
Elizabeth Luker of Union said her 5-year-old son Bradley has spina bifida, and she is pleased to hear that Power Soccer will offer him the same opportunities for play and competition that his siblings enjoy.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “His sister has a room full of trophies and I think Bradley has got to get some, too.”
The free Power Soccer clinic is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 30 at the Downtown YMCA, 800 River Place in Jackson. Equipment and lunch will be provided. Preregistration is required. For more information or to register, please call Ginny Boydston at 601-364-3566 or 1-800-223-6672 ext. 3566.