PHOENIX — Ability360 held its first annual power soccer tournament in Phoenix Saturday and Sunday.
The center strives to empower people with disabilities through its accessible fitness center and sports programs. The Phoenix Rising adaptive power soccer team, led by coach Tony Jackson, is a perfect example of that goal.
Jackson was born with arthrogryposis limiting most of his mobility to his right forearm.
"I didn't know I could play sports. I watched sports growing up. I watched my brother play sports but I didn't know I could,” Jackson said.
That all changed when Jackson found power soccer 11 years ago. Now, he plays, coaches and travels the world broadcasting games.
Jackson says, "It's given me pretty much everything that I do now. Without power soccer, I wouldn't be coaching or playing now. I wouldn't have done live streaming."
Fellow player Steve Everett was also born with arthrogryposis. He played power tennis for years. However, when he found power soccer 10 years ago, he also gained strength he couldn't find elsewhere.
"The struggle is how you grow so once you get through that, the sky's the limit,” he says.
Power soccer is played on a court in 20-minute halves and follows traditional soccer rules, with some exceptions.
The biggest difference is the power chairs. They're custom to each player's ability but are also an equalizer.
"You have this huge spectrum of people who play this game but all of us that use the chair are all playing in the same equipment and now it just comes down to the athlete’s ability to use the chair,” Jackson explains.
That's exactly what the competitive game showcases; skill, athleticism but not limitations, and Jackson says fans notice.
"When we get out on the floor and were banging around, talking smack to each other out there competing and trying to win. I think a lot of that goes away,” Jackson said.
Find more information about the Ability360 Phoenix Rising power soccer program and other programs online.