Published Friday, October 17, 2008
As with all sports the athletes of Power Soccer are drawn to it for a variety of reasons. For Ana Lu having a sport that she can play in her power wheelchair drew her in but it is the competitive nature and speed of the sport that keeps her committed. For Ana’s friend Lareina Yung it was Ana’s passion and consistent prodding that originally encouraged her to try Power Soccer and it is the social aspect of the sport, and the ever growing group of friends that are involved, that keeps her coming back. Lareina explains “I got involved in Power Soccer through knowing Ana because we went to school together and she kept bugging me to join so one day I said ‘okay I’ll try it out’ and I’ve been coming back every week.”
Ana and Lareina both have progressive neuromuscular disorders. Neuromuscular disorders affect the nerves that control voluntary muscles, like those in your arms and legs. Neurons send messages that control these muscles but when the neurons become unhealthy or die communication between your nervous system and muscles break down which cause your muscles to weaken and waste away. The weakness can lead to twitching, cramps, aches and pains, and joint, movement and mobility problems.
Ana loves how Power Soccer opens up a world to power wheelchair users, “power chair athletes are limited in what they can play and if you look at the people on our teams their disabilities can be quite severe. A lot of our players have very limited mobility and it is great to see a sport where you get to see people who normally wouldn’t be in this atmosphere or environment be active and mobile. You can go out there and crash and bang and you aren’t afraid to just go for it and wreak some havoc.”
Power Soccer is a team sport played worldwide by athletes with a variety of disabilities. Two teams of four attempt to score points on goal as they attack, defend and maneuver an oversized soccer ball with a foot guard attached to the front of their wheelchair. Power Soccer combines the skill of the athlete with the speed and power of their wheelchair. Power Soccer is the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users.
Power Soccer is an ever evolving sport whose popularity has surged since the first BC Power Soccer program started in the early 1980s. Currently there are teams in Vancouver, Surrey, the North Shore, Naniamo, Victoria, Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon. The BC Power Soccer league recently adopted the international rules of Power Soccer so that players could play at the highest, international, level. The adoption of the international rules meant a switch to using a smaller ball and to a change of the size and material used for the foot guards. Ana states that the new rules “have been positive and have made the game faster.”
Some of the Power Soccer athletes have played in tournaments outside of Canada but the majority of the athletes compete in local and provincial competitions. In 2005 the teams from the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan traveled to Naniamo to compete in BC Disability Games. The Power Soccer competition during the BC Disability Games created interest in the sport and has led to the creation of two Power Soccer teams in Naniamo.
Ana is happy to see the expansion of teams as “Power Soccer is a very valuable sport. It gives people with severe disabilities like us an opportunity to compete in a high paced sport which isn’t an opportunity we usually get.”