You’ve got players of all disabilities sitting in wheelchairs on a gym floor.
Not just your regular wheelchairs. These babies are souped-up, complete with specialized bumper. There’s three to a side plus a goalie, with the non-goalies using their chairs to try and get an oversized leather ball the size of a small medicine ball into a goal past the goalie. The referees are able-bodies.
Welcome to power soccer.
For the second year in a row, Vernon will host the annual B.C. Storm Power Soccer Tournament, which features about 20 players playing on mixed sides looking to earn a spot on Team B.C. One of the players is Coldstream Jacob Brayshaw, who is returning from a swim camp in Spain as he prepares to represent Canada this summer at the Parapan-Am Games in Lima, Peru.
“It’s electric wheelchair soccer,” said Brayshaw’s mom, Michelle McCullough. “The players push around a big soccer ball with their souped-up chairs and try to score. The public is more than welcome to come and watch.”
The 16th annual B.C. Storm tournament runs Saturday and Sunday, May 11 and 12, at Vernon Secondary School. Games run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Players are from across B.C. ranging in age from Brayshaw, a Grade 11 student at W.L. Seaton Secondary at 16, to a competitor at 72, and all with varying disabilities. Brayshaw suffers from muscular dystrophy, while others battle cerebral palsy, brain injuries and rheumatoid arthritis.
The metal bumpers on the chairs propel the ball, though a player can’t be within three metres of the goalie in the crease.
Like last year, the teams will be mixed up in the tournament so newer players can get a feel for the game and integrate with some of the veteran players.
“It’s a great opportunity for youth and adults to socialize with others with the same interests and it gives them a chance to be very active and competitive in their sport,” said McCullough.
The tournament draws great support from Tolko, Kal Tire, downtown Canada Safeway, TD Canada Trust and, as they did a year ago, Vernon Fire Rescue Services will be firing up a barbecue to cook for the athletes and guests.