News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 2, 2013

Power soccer brings sport to more athletes

Meeting focuses on new program designed for wheelchair users

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The name of the game is power soccer, and it is empowering people with disabilities.

Wabash Valley residents will have the chance to learn how the sport is played during an upcoming power soccer clinic at 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Vigo County YMCA, 951 Dresser Drive.

But what is power soccer?

According to the United States Power Soccer Association, “Power Soccer is the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users.

 “Athletes’ disabilities include quadriplegia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and many others,” its website states.

Playing in a gymnasium 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.

The game has been played in various forms since the 1970’s and is recently gaining popularity in the United States. Many teams have been formed all over the country.

With good reason.

“It’s a fun, fast and competitive sport,” Terre Haute resident Joe Slaby, organizer of the upcoming event, said in an interview Saturday.  

It also has mental, emotional and social benefits.

 “It’s good to be involved in something whether it’s in sports, music, movies, or something else. To say you can’t compete in anything because of your physical disability, it shouldn’t be like that,” Slaby said.  

It is about being “involved in something and meeting other players that are in similar circumstances as yours,” said Slaby, who has a neuromuscular condition.

Inspired by people he has met who play the sport, Slaby decided to organize the event in partnership with the Vigo County YMCA and the Power Soccer of Indy, which is part of the U.S. Power Soccer Association.

“At the YMCA, we want people to know that we offer so much more to the community. And these are just the type of events that we like to host and be a part of,” said Eleanor Ramseier, executive director of the Vigo County YMCA.

“We’re excited that Joe decided to call us and include us because that’s what we’re here for — just fulfilling needs that haven’t been met yet in our community,” Ramseier added.

At the event, participants will learn “hands-on” how the game is played. Karen Russo, president of the Power Soccer of Indy, will take participants through drills and scrimmage.

The clinic is open to all ages and individuals with physical disabilities. Participants must provide their own power wheelchairs.

And be prepared to learn and have fun.

“If we get something going down here, hopefully, it will spark interest ... in other towns to start teams,” Slaby said.

There are more than 10 power soccer teams in Indiana, and Slaby hopes to form a Terre Haute team that may travel widely for tournaments.

“It’s about empowering people.” Slaby said. “It’s about letting people know that you can still compete even if you can’t get up and walk around. There are still options available. There’s a bunch of great people that you’ll meet and there’s probably a bunch of cool places that you’ll go.

“It is an experience that will change somebody’s life,” he added.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@ tribstar.com.