The Power of Soccer
By Jan Labas
Sounds a little silly to say that adapted sports has changed our lives, but it’s true. As parents of a preemie, once we got our child past the important issues like breathing and staying well, we were faced with how to begin to fill his life with meaning. Filling that life when you are differently-abled can be challenging; but what meaningful life isn’t challenging at times?
As our Luke, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, grew, we graduated from a stroller to a manual wheelchair, before jumping into a power chair at the age of 5 as he entered kindergarten. As a family, you explore things to do together. We loved bowling since many lanes had a ball ramp and it was one activity that all seven of us could do together.
Our lives changed when we were introduced to Power Soccer. Sounds a tad melodramatic that an adapted sport could impact an entire family, but it has and does. As Luke matured, so did his peers. Off they went with the baseball team or the football team to be a part of something competitive. Luke would tell you that his competitive nature has nothing to do with how others perceive his ability. I think that might be the one attitude I have noticed changing in the minds of others. Instead of seeing a wheelchair and the first thought being what he can’t do; it is now, look what he CAN do.
When Luke started playing Power Soccer seven years ago he was hooked immediately. It gave him an outlet for his competitiveness, along with injuries - but he wore them proudly. Over the years, as with all athletes that stick with something, his play improved. He is now part of a team in the highest level of competition traveling the country.
Adapted sports can be such a big part of a child with a physical disabilities life. The sport has pushed Luke to travel and adapt to new places and surroundings. Power Soccer has exposed him to many new friends that he shares a unique connection with. Teams are not age-specific so he has learned skills of getting along with adults, and sometimes younger kids,
in the heat of competition. He has learned about himself in the highs of winning and the lows of losing. He has gained valuable life lessons that I’m not sure how else he would have learned. He knows what it feels like to be good at something and work toward a goal. He has learned what being a leader means and the responsibility that comes with it.
Power Soccer as an adapted sport has shaped Luke and helped him to become who he is. As a family, Power Soccer has exposed all of us to hundreds of families. Imagine spending weekends nine months out of the year with families just like your own. Sometimes it’s like a giant support group where we hash out struggles in the bleachers; while other times the play is so exciting we can barely sit down between cheers.
I strongly urge parents, if you are feeling like your child’s disability is isolating or that they need a physical activity, to seek out recreational opportunities in your community. If you need help finding them, call us; we can help. 317.944.8982 firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources for you
If you’re looking for sports opportunities for your child, you might check with Special Olympics in your area. Special Olympics Indiana is a not-for-profit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in more than 20 Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, reaching more than 11,000 athletes across Indiana.
Rehab Hospital Indiana Sports is another program you might be interested in. RHI Sports specializes in serving youth and adults with spinal cord, orthopedic, neuromuscular, and visual impairments. Specially designed equipment is available for many of the activities. Handcycles, racing chairs, tennis chairs, water skies and adaptive golf carts enable participants to enjoy activities comfortably and safely.