My name is Cameron Broyles, and I’m sixteen years old. I have been playing power soccer for almost four years now. When I first started power soccer, I was a team member of the Houston Fireballs. I just recently moved to Colorado and saw that there was a team in Denver which I was super excited about, but after making a few inquiries about playing, we found out the coach had left the year before and it broke up beforehand. To say I was a little disappointed was an understatement! When you’re physically disabled, power soccer might just be the only sport you can fully participate with a power chair. My dad figured that maybe he should be the one to get it started again and coach the team. He had a little coaching experience in Houston already so, why not? Power soccer as a sport for individuals with disabilities is on the rise, and I’m going to demonstrate to you how to start, or in our case… restart a power soccer team.
The first task at hand was to get in contact with Colorado Adaptive Sports Foundation which is the company over adaptive sports programs for kids with disabilities in the Denver area. These programs include power soccer, sled hockey, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair curling and wheelchair lacrosse. After several meetings with the gentleman who runs Colorado Adaptive Sports Foundation and a former player, our next big task would be to scout out a location to hold practices. After a few more meetings, they finally figured out a great place to practice which turned out to be a rehabilitative hospital, which contains a gym that would be perfect for our practices! You could also try a local recreation center, YMCA or school gym that would be willing to rent out space maybe to hold practices for free. After nailing down a set weekly schedule for practices for our team, then we needed to email all former players that used to play on the team and tell them that practices are back on!
We finally had our first practice, and even though we don’t have many players yet, the former team players were pretty good! The only problem was the guards they were using were plastic. Now don’t get me wrong, plastic guards are great for beginning teams, but in my opinion, they are the #1 tool needed for serious power soccer play. They are the essential part of the game besides the type of power chair that is used. A guard is the primary protection for the motor and your legs from getting hit. A metal guard will also give your hits or spin kicks more precision over plastic guards by far. It is not used for ramming another person in a chair, believe me, I know because I used to get in trouble for accidental ramming. Unfortunately, it happens occasionally when you have spastic cerebral palsy. My dad was pushing to get new metal guards for our team players. Metal guards with brackets usually run between $300-400. Now, this would be a considerable expense for a new team and most times; teams would have to get some fundraising going to pull some money for such a significant cost. But, in our case after another meeting with Colorado Adaptive Sports, we learned that they had a budget set aside for each sport for equipment or travel expenses! Our team would be getting metal guards! This was huge! So we ordered a set of eight guards (even though we don’t have eight players yet) and a different assortment of metal brackets to accommodate different chairs. Once we told the team, they were ecstatic! We were moving this team to a more competitive level.
During practices, make sure you as a coach do stop/play scrimmages after doing a few drills. Teach the players to know how to apply what they learned from the drills to the scrimmage. Teach them the basic rules of the game during a scrimmage so they will naturally remember it during a game. I recommend you buy some cones to mark the court, at least four goal posts and two or more power soccer balls before you have your first practice. Another valuable resource to know about is Power Soccer Camp in Minnesota. It’s a one-week summer camp geared to teach the sport of power soccer to individuals with disabilities. I went this past summer with my mom and dad and learned SO much and had a lot of fun as well. You are learning drills and plays from TEAM USA players! My dad incorporates a lot of these drills into our practices.
Our next problem to work on was trying to recruit some new players. My team only has 5-6 players right now, so we are trying to get the word out to build our team up. My parents worked on a new flyer that we could send out to my Medicaid caseworker so she could then email out to all her other clients. Then we sent it out to my team players so they could then print them off and send out to their therapists, doctor's offices, specialists, and school’s special education department. Then we gave the info to wheelchair purveyors like NuMotion so that whenever they go to clients homes with new equipment, they can also relay the information that we need some players, and they can donate old power chairs to the team. That way we will have some dedicated power soccer chairs on hand for new players to try out at the gym at all times. I have donated my old chair and guard to the gym ready for new players to use as well. We also got our first donated chair right before Christmas this past year, but it needs some work still, so that was pretty cool. The best chairs for the sport need to either be rear wheel drive or center wheel drive power chairs. If you want the Cadillac of powerchairs, then you want a StrikeForce PowerSoccer chair. Now, these babies are expensive, but they are specifically made for the sport. They are faster, lower to the ground and so much more powerful than a regular power chair. They are more expensive, with a cost of $7000-9000 depending on the extras you order. I have had mine for about a two years now, and they are worth it if you are serious about power soccer!
I’m hoping this coming year; we continue to get some new players interested in joining the team because I think the next step would be to just practice, practice and more practice till you get brave enough to go to your first power soccer tournament. Once you play your first tournament with other teams, it’s like nothing else!
Cameron Broyles has been blogging for five years and has his own blog about travel and exploring life with a disability at Cameronblog.net