Glendale hosted its first power soccer invitational tournament last weekend, drawing teams from as far away as Hollister, Calif. and Mesa, Ariz.
Glendale now has two power soccer teams, the Rough Riders, and the new Wild Wheelers. Finding other teams to play has been a challenge. For the invitational, the Hollister Free Wheelers, Santa Barbara’s Rollin’ Rebels and Rollin’ Gauchos, and the Arizona Heat 3, of Mesa, Ariz., came to play against our local favorites.
The tournament revolved around competitive power soccer matches and also around the concept of inspiration for those who are not aware of the growing sports for disabled people.
Michael Brady of the Arizona Heat broke his neck playing softball. “I made a lot of new friends,” he said.”It gives you something to be competitive in. You’re not just a bystander; you’re actually out there participating.”
Many Glendale residents may be unaware of the city’s newest team, the Wild Wheelers. According to Gordon Cardona, team captain of the Glendale Wild Wheelers, the split was a natural progression.
“Glendale Power Soccer grew over its first year. So much so, that we had enough players to split into two teams after the first year and I was named team captain. During our first year, we only won one game at Santa Barbara. It was huge for Glendale Power Soccer,” he said. “Both Glendale teams have a great relationship and we work well together. However, once on the court, we get into it.”
The game is played much like standard soccer, but with a few exceptions.
“On the court, each team has a center, a goalkeeper and two wingmen. As in regular soccer, the object is to get the ball into the opposing opponent’s goal. All players use power chairs which are outfitted with a metal guard in front of the chair,” explained Cardona.
The rules of power soccer are simple. The game is played on a basketball court. During a game, the objective is to maneuver the soccer ball into the opponent’s goal by dribbling and passing. Like able-bodied soccer, the game incorporates a wide open, passing style and uses corner, penalty and goal kicks. The fouls and penalties that are enforced in power soccer are also similar to the able-bodied game and also use red and yellow cards.
Power soccer, one of America’s fastest growing sports, attracts all kinds of disabled athletes.
“Players have to be somewhat aggressive and don’t mind the occasional rough play, said Cardona. “Individuals with any disability are welcome to try out, as long as they have a power chair. On my team, the Glendale Wild Wheelers, most of our players have cerebral palsy and there’s one with a spinal cord injury. The Glendale Rough Riders consist of players with muscular dystrophy, mostly.”
“Cerebral palsy, car accidents, some have been shot, driving accidents, people have been beaten,” continued Cindy Wells, head coach of the Rough Riders, recounting some of the reasons her team members became disabled.
“Some of them walked and played football and eventually ended up in a wheelchair.”
The benefits are immeasurable. According to Wells, the sport allows the disabled athletes to show what they really have and it brings them confidence. She explained that it is like any other team sport. Most of these people thought that they would never be able to play sports.
Wells’ son, Joey, is one of the founding players of the Rough Riders and she stated the benefits of him playing power soccer.
“My son has gotten physically and mentally stronger,” Wells said.
“It’s not an easy sport. I’ve tried playing the sport before,” Wells said. “You get in a chair and try to do what they’re doing and it’s really hard.” The sport requires a certain amount of accuracy when trying to steer the ball into the goal and passing the ball to another player.
The players agree. “The game does require skill to maneuver the chair to push and guide the soccer ball and to defend,” said Cardona. ” It isn’t like operating the chair for daily use. It takes a lot of practice and an understanding of what you can do in a power chair. Also, rear-wheel drive chairs are better for power soccer, rather than mid-wheel drive chairs, for guiding the ball and spin-kicks.”
Hosting the tourney was an organizational challenge, according to Program Coordinator Laura Matsumoto.
“The team was asked to go out in the community and request sponsorship,” said Matsumoto. “We were fortunate enough to get some generous donations from local businesses, especially Rocky’s Pizza and Quiznos,” Matsumoto added. Options on different local hotels were given to each team as far as lodging. “The distribution of medication is all independently handled,” said Matsumoto.
There were teams who came from Northern California and Arizona. Each team played five games during the two-day tournament. Awards were given at the end of the tournament on Sunday.
Glendale showed its talent throughout the tournament, but the Santa Barbara Rollin’ Gauchos won and took first place. Trailing behind the team in second place were The Glendale Rough Riders. The Hollister Freewheelers came in third. The Glendale Wild Wheelers came in at fifth place, and The Santa Barbara Rollin’ Rebels finished last.
Power soccer gives all athletes an opportunity to compete. As Brady said, “Just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines.”
GLENDALE ROUGH RIDERS
Head Coach: Cindy Wells
Joey Wells #22
Kyle Ornelas #27
Benny Aviles #13
Kelly Wong #54
Taylor Kawata #28
GLENDALE WILD WHEELERS
Head Coach: Daniel Acevedo
Gordon Cordona #8
Jon Seyster #15
Jeff Graner #83
Scott Barron #14
Dino Ramos #18
Edwin Hartounian #24