The Tampa Thunder, a top soccer club for people who use power wheelchairs, will be in North Fort Myers on Saturday, Jan. 18, to host a free event at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center.
From noon to 3 p.m., people can watch a demonstration and participate in a power chair clinic with team members of the Tampa Thunder power soccer team.
Power soccer is the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users. Participants include those with quadriplegia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, head trauma, stroke, spinal cord injury and other disabilities.
Terri Farrell, of Lee County Parks & Recreation who put together the event, said the idea got started from a suggestion from a parent whose child was using a power wheelchair.
"They had attended a power chair clinic that was put on by the Thunder and she was excited about bringing it here," Farrell said. "She put me in touch with Tari Carpenter, an assistant coach."
"We did a clinic in Tampa in August, and Brendan Cotts and his family came, and he was so excited, but it was too far for him to come every week," Caprenter said. "His mom got in touch with Lee County and said this is something they should look into."
Those who participate will be furnished with power bumpers during the game, Farrell said, and they will learn soccer skills using the chair and get to see what the sport is about.
Carpenter said her team uses specialized chairs for the sport.
Power soccer combines the skill of the wheelchair user with the speed and power of the chair itself to participate in a challenging game similar to soccer.
"They use techniques to spin their chairs to get enough momentum to hit the ball and score," Farrell said. "It's the same theory as soccer."
The game is played in a gymnasium on a regulation basketball court. Teams of four attack, defend and spin-kick a 13-inch soccer ball in an attempt to score. Power soccer is a growing sport nationally and internationally.
Founded in 2004, the Tampa Thunder team has played in 150 games and competed in more than 25 regional and national tournaments. The Thunder is ranked third in the nation.
For Carpenter, the idea is to get more people excited about the sport and competing.
"We're going to give them a short demonstration to show them the game and rules, get them guarded up and show them as much as we can in the time allotted," Carpenter said. "Hopefully, we can get some enthusiasm and start another team, even if it's a rec team. It's been life changing for the boys on my team."
Clinic participants must bring their own power chair and registration will be done in person on the day of the event.
Prospective participants should call Farrell at 267-2181 or e-mail him at Tfarrell@leegov.com.