It’s like soccer on a basketball court with players on wheels.
It’s called power soccer, and it’s a game similar to regular soccer but designed for power wheelchair users.
The athletes have disabilities including quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. But when they’re on the court, the disabilities disappear, and world-class athletes compete for a title.
This weekend, five power soccer teams from Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Illinois and New York came to Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities to compete in the Power Soccer Shop Premier Classic Power Soccer Tournament.
The teams battled for rankings before the national tournament in June in Arizona. But someday soon, Turnstone hopes to host a national tournament at a field house coming soon to Fort Wayne.
When it’s finished, Turnstone’s two soccer teams and other sports teams will have more time to practice and more room to play, said Drew Achenbach, Sports and Recreation Coordinator at Turnstone.
Now for practice, they split the court, Achenbach said. But once we build the field house, the teams can practice essentially as often as they want.
And practice means everything when it’s tournament time. This weekend, Turnstone’s teams, the No. 4 ranked Turnstone Flyers and the No. 13 ranked Turnstone Furious Flyers, took on top competitors, including the No. 1 ranked Circle City Rollers from Greenwood.
Michael Archer, 24, in his 10th year playing for the Circle City Rollers, holds the national records for scoring with 205 goals and 238 assists, according to the Facebook page for the Circle City Rollers Power Soccer Club.
Archer was born with arthrogryposis, which means his joints are stiff and he can’t move his limbs much. But he can control his chair with a joystick, and his skills have taken him to five national titles and two world cup championships in Tokyo and Paris. He said the best part about playing power soccer is meeting other athletes and making new friends. He also likes the freedom of being able to play games on his own.
This was something I was able to do by myself, Archer said.
Most players use power chairs called Strike Force Wheelchairs to play soccer, Achenbach explained. The chairs sit lower than regular wheelchairs and have a sleek go-kart design to keep them from tipping over when the players turn to kick the ball. They kick the ball with a metal gating on the front of the wheelchair and use the speed of the chair to whip the ball across the court.
The ball is the same material as a regular soccer ball, but it’s two and a half times larger, and the game is played four-on-four, including one goalie on each team. Since the players can’t sidestep, they can’t double team, Achenbach said, but the rules are otherwise about the same as those for soccer.
Luke Labas, 19, of Fort Wayne plays on the Turnstone Flyers team. Labas was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was about 2 years old, and he grew up watching from the sidelines as his three older brothers played sports. Then, about eight years ago, he started playing for the Flyers, and his dad became the coach. Now they travel the country for his tournaments.
This brings out the competitive spirit in me, Labas said. I’ve always had that competitive gene, but this gives me the chance to use it.
Turnstone is planning a 125,000-square-foot expansion at its 3320 N. Clinton St. location that will include a new field house, a water therapy pool and related equipment, health and wellness space and associated offices.
The expansion will cost about $14.1 million, and the nonprofit said in February that it raised more than half the money through a capital campaign and monetary gift. If all goes well, Turnstone CEO Nancy Louraine said, the new field house could be open in early 2016.
When it’s finished, Labas is looking forward to having more opportunities for wheelchair sports in Fort Wayne.
It would give more people access to sports programs, which is really important because people like me would otherwise be staying home playing video games, Labas said.