Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette The 2019 Power Soccer Conference Cup Series is held at Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities on Saturday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Vincent Lane with Team Force ASPO hits the ball while the Tidewater Piranhas' Nikki Dwyer tries to defend him during the 2019 Power Soccer Conference Cup Series at Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities on Saturday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Team Ghost Riderz' Daniel Cornejo prepares to hit the ball back in during the 2019 Power Soccer Conference Cup Series at Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities on Saturday.
Saturday, June 15, 2019 5:10 pm
Athletes travel from coast to coast to compete in power soccer tournament at Turnstone
MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette
Players speed down the pitch.
A shot is taken. Cheers erupt.
The Women's World Cup in France? Nope.
The action Saturday was in Fort Wayne, at Turnstone's athletic complex on North Clinton Street.
Hundreds of athletes from across the country competed in the MK Battery Conference Cup Series, organized by the United States Power Soccer Association. Players in battery-powered wheelchairs raced across four basketball courts turned soccer fields in tournaments that continue today.
Aiden Fecteau, 17, traveled 12 hours in a rented van with his parents and a friendly service dog named Jeremy from their home in Connecticut to compete with his team, the Haverhill, Massachusetts-based Baystate Falcons.
He was thinking about one thing as we waited for his team's first match against the Hot Shots from Sulphur Springs: "Scoring goals," Aiden said.
Jim Labas, president of the soccer association, said about 350 athletes will compete as part of 39 teams for four separate championships this weekend. It's the second year the tournament has been held at the local facility, which he said is well-suited for the athletes and their equipment.
Hundreds of wheelchairs will need to be recharged – many at the same time – and Labas said Turnstone was prepared to accommodate.
Of the tournament and its participants, he said the sport is fast-paced and exciting.
"They're just like any other athlete out there," Labas said. "Just to see their spirit and their drive – I've never seen somebody who's come out of power soccer who hasn't come back for more."
Jude Lightfoot can relate.
He traveled seven hours from St. Louis with player Dwan "Speedy" Donner and a friend for the event. Donner, 25, has static cerebral palsy and has been playing for about 12 years.
Speedy came by his nickname honestly, Lightfoot said.
"He drives around too fast in his wheelchair. He scares people," he said, smiling. "This (sport) is coast-to-coast."
As Donner's Firecrackers team used their specially designed wheelchairs – they can cost as much as $20,000, participants said – to bump and pass a large soccer ball toward goals, John Cano sat watching nearby.
His daughter, Jada Cano, 13 – wearing No. 5 on her chair and a red, white and blue jersey – was playing against Donner for the San Antonio, Texas-based Scorpions. She attended a camp years ago where she learned about power soccer and has been playing for about seven years.
"She was one of the first ones to start the program (in San Antonio)," John Cano said.
Labas, the association president, said power soccer provides a way for the athletes to compete and escape some of the challenges they face.
"For 40 minutes what matters is their team, their effort and their drive," he said in an email. "What is lost are the daily discomforts and adjustments of everyday life."
A schedule is available at www.powersoccerusa.org.