TERRE HAUTE —
Excited athletes on Saturday learned how to play a sport that empowers people with disabilities.
A Power Soccer Clinic was hosted at the Vigo County YMCA, where players in power wheelchairs learned how to play power soccer, “the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users,” according to the Unites States Power Soccer Association.
“Athletes’ disabilities include quadriplegia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and many others,” the US Power Soccer Association website states.
Played on a regulation basketball court, “two teams of four players attack, defend and spin-kick a 13-inch soccer ball in a skilled and challenging game similar to able-bodied soccer,” the website states.
Six players — four from Terre Haute and two from Indianapolis — participated in drills and a scrimmage Saturday night inside the gym. Players practiced kicking, making a goal and passing the ball, among other drills.
One participant, 51-year-old Doris Wolfe, was excited.
“I just heard about power soccer and thought it will be fun,” the Terre Haute resident said.
“I’ve never done it before so I’m excited.”
Another player, Terre Haute resident Joe Slaby, organized the event in an effort to provide people with disabilities an opportunity to compete in a fun sport.
“If I can bring that to somebody here in Terre Haute, I’d be happy to,” Slaby said.
And Slaby was very happy that the event, which had been cancelled once before, finally happened.
“It feels great because I know that we are moving in the right direction,” Slaby said.
“From here, we can take the next step into more practices and possibly competing,” he said.
The clinic, he said, was a major step toward forming a power soccer team in Terre Haute.
And playing power soccer brings many benefits.
Karen Russo, president of Power Soccer of Indy, said the sport teaches its participants “the value of teamwork, strategy, skill and being accepted into a group.”
In addition to life skills, “the sport brings a lot of camaraderie between disabled athletes ...” said Russo, who facilitated the clinic.
Open to any age and gender, the sport allows people with disabilities to compete.
“It’s the joystick that equalizes the game,” Russo said.
And since the game allows players to be independent on the court, their families can cheer for them in the sidelines, Russo said.
And the family members cheered for the players at the clinic.
Parents Tim and Stacey Manley took their son, Carter, 7, to the clinic.
And the event was a surprise.
“He didn’t know,” Stacey Manley said. “Now, he’s really excited.”
Carter, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, just got his power chair two months ago, she said.
“I want him to get out of the house ... do things and not be stuck in the house all winter,” Manley said.
“So he can feel normal like other kids,” she continued. “Just because he has a disability, I don’t want him to feel different. It’s very important to me.”
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.