PHOENIX — The Phoenix Rising Football Club is helping athletes sidelined with disabilities to become players on an adaptive soccer team.
The soccer team has partnered with Ability360 to kick off the Ability360 Phoenix Rising Power Soccer Program, a team designed for people with disabilities.
"Power soccer is designed for people who use power wheelchairs in their daily lives," said Tony Jackson, Power Soccer Coordinator at Ability360, who has arthrogryposis, a disease that affects the joints.
"It was a sport that I could play, I could do it independently. I didn’t need the help of anybody once I got on the court. Being able to call myself an athlete for the last 11 years now, it’s awesome."
Power soccer is played on a basketball court and Ability 360 provides custom electric wheelchairs for athletes. Wheelchairs are capped at 6.2mph, but they are quick-moving, and feel faster when playing power soccer, something Phoenix Rising Head Coach Rick Schantz learned first-hand. "It just kind of opened my eyes," said Schantz about his first experience in the electric wheelchair. "It is quick."
Phoenix Rising and Ability360 are welcoming its newest athlete, who has waited three long decades for this very moment.
During an interview with CW61 Arizona earlier this year, Victor Ocando said that if Phoenix Rising ever created an adaptive soccer team, he'd be the first to sign up. Ocando, who was born with cerebral palsy, has always had to watch his favorite sport from the sidelines.
Ocando worked hard on his strength and ability to walk and was invited out to Phoenix Rising practice to pass a soccer ball back and forth with Rising's Jose Aguinaga and Jon Bakero. He's been an inspiration to Phoenix Rising players and fans during the past season.
ABC 15 and Phoenix Rising invited Ocando to Ability360 to take the next step in his journey, and play the game he's loved for his entire life.
It didn't long for Ocando to get the hang of the electric chair, his competitive nature quickly set in, but his smile never faded. “It’s an awesome experience. It’s incredible to play soccer," said Ocando after his first experience playing power soccer. "I’m excited to play the sport that I love and I’m excited about also playing for Phoenix Rising."
"I don’t think what victor realizes is that he brought a lot to our team and he brought a lot to our organization just by being around the guys," said Schantz.
Ability360 will be kicking off the new power soccer program on January 11, 2020.