This year I began a journey I never thought I would take. I started playing power wheelchair soccer. You see, when I was younger I was active. I participated in many sports from softball to cross county to track. Once I began showing signs of disability I longed for the thrill of being active and playing sports again. I began playing wheelchair basketball.
It was amazing to be able to compete again! Although, as my disease progressed, I found myself unable to compete again. Wheelchair basketball was still a large part of my life, but it was in more of a coaching role instead. After my life with wheelchair basketball finally came to an end, I resigned myself to the understanding that I would never participate in competitive sports again.
Many years later I decided to look into the sport of power wheelchair soccer. I had seen power soccer games in the past, but I wasn’t impressed with the apparent lack of competitiveness of the sport, but I decided it was that or nothing so I would give it a chance.
What I found with power soccer now that I hadn’t seen before was a fast paced, highly competitive game in which I MUST participate. With the help of Power Soccer Shop and their invention of the Strike Force Chair, the competitiveness, speed, and attractiveness of Power Soccer had improved immensely. So, with the encouragement from my husband, I gave it a chance in April of this year. What I discovered was far greater than a competitive, fast paced game.
This season I decided to join a new team, the Hot Shots! With the Hot Shots and the power soccer community, I had found the family for which I was seeking. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful family that I love. However, they can’t fully understand what I go through on a regular basis living with neuromuscular disease caused by a rare organic acidemia and mitochondrial disease. They see the external effects, but they don’t live the life. What I found with power soccer is a family who truly understands.
We all have different disabilities that manifest in different ways. We may have different symptoms, abilities, struggles, etc., but we all share a unique bond that cannot be replicated in many circles. We all understand what it means to live life with a disability.
Each power soccer player understands the struggles of overcoming daily obstacles in life. Each player can empathise when we are having an overly symptomatic day. Each payer understands why participating in power soccer is more than just the competition. It’s a place where we are not the “odd one out”. We are not stared at, judged, looked down on, or pitied as we often experience in public. It’s the comradery we all share because we share the struggles of overcoming adversity just to play, be active, and live “normal” lives. Because of this commonality we all share, we are more than rivals on the court seeking to take the win, we are family!
In power soccer, we can fight for the win on the court, but off the court we are still family. We can disagree with the referee’s call, but still respect them because we are a family. We can celebrate a win because it shows we’ve improved our skills as a team, but we can also celebrate our losses because a loss for us is a win for our friends…our family.
You see, wheelchair sports, unlike able-bodied sorts, forces a common respect for our rivals because we can understand what each other have overcome just to be there. We respect our coaches for giving their time to helping us reach our max potential. We respect the referees because we acknowledge the time they sacrifice from their personal lives to make it possible for us to compete. We truly care about each other’s well being. We celebrate their accomplishments with them, we empathize with them when they are struggling, and we mourn together the loss of our friends and family when disease progressions ultimately take them from us.
Power Soccer is the only competitive sport designed specifically for power wheelchair users. It is our only option to experience the normalcy of competitive sports. I have never felt so accepted, understood, and respected by my rivals, coaches, and referees in any other sport of which I’ve been a participant. Power soccer is truly family! It’s a family with which I look forward to hanging out, competing, and socializing. It’s more than just a sport, it’s freedom, acceptance, friendship… it’s my family.
To learn more about power wheelchair soccer and other adaptive sports check out these awesome sites:
-Photographs courtesy of David Arnold- Loft 58 Photography