Power Soccer Family Camp

By: Shayne De Wildt


I first heard about the Power Soccer Family Camp from a friend who plays power soccer in Montreal at the Defi Sportif tournament earlier this year. The camp was held at Camp Courage in the lush green spaces in Minnesota at wheelchair accessible campground. The campground has been around since 1964 and, nearly a decade ago, power soccer was introduced to the camp by Deandra Bardell. Bardell, who has a disability herself, wanted a place to play the game she loves with her friends in the summer months during the regular season break.

Since that time, the camp has continued to develop as well as the sport. From its early days as a game of “who can push the ball hardest” to an international sport with tactical passing and high-powered kicks, power soccer has experienced a lot of important changes bringing the sport to new players and new levels of competition. The camp reflects these changes. Players attending the camp are immersed in a fast-paced environment, allowing them to practice and play non-stop for the majority of the week. Many charge their chairs on the fly and only stop long enough to eat (when they can be encouraged to leave the gym).

The camp itself sports an accessible swimming pool, zip line, fire pit, and mini golf. We were informed that there was a boating trip planned on the lake one day but, being Minnesota in the summer time, a spontaneous storm put an end to that plan.

Tony Jackson, a high-level player himself, coached the four days of intense practice, drills, and scrimmages. Being a person with a disability and in a power chair himself gives Jackson the ability to demonstrate and explain skills and drills first-hand with an on-the-court perspective not offered by every coach. A host of drills focused on some of the primary skills new and old players alike can benefit from: accuracy, power, communication, court awareness, etc. To tackle one of the main problems a lot of newer players face, easily avoidable 2-on-1 calls, players were drilled to rotate around the court to open lanes and let their teammates know where they are in game situations. Players need to come to camp with a coachable attitude and an ability to take positive criticism in order to truly benefit from the experience.

Technology has had a major impact on the game and one cannot help but notice that nearly every player at the camp had the new Strike Force power soccer chair. Hanging around the camp was Milton Tuttle, a representative and technician for The Power Soccer Shop, the builder and seller of the Strike Force chairs. Tuttle had his hands full making adjustments and fixing up chairs for players, showing a high level of commitment to their product.

I had only just purchased my own Strike Force a month prior to the camp, while another player had picked up his new chair on the way there. We were both eager to get out and really test the limits of the chair. A major philosophy common to many high-end players revolves around getting the most out of your chair. For example, Pete Winslow, another high-level player attending the camp, demonstrated his techniques for maximizing the power and accuracy of spin-kicks. Pete is one of the hardest kickers in the game and manages to keep things unpredictable on the court. He always keeps players guessing where he is going to smash the ball next.

I myself am a long-time player from Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been to the world cup in France, a tournament in Rio de Janeiro, and have had trips to California, Atlanta, and Montreal. But camp was nothing like any of these trips: playing all day at camp is a lot different from waiting all day to have a match at a tournament. I’d recommend players of any skill level give the camp a thought. It’s an excellent opportunity to get out and meet new people, learn some skills, have fun, improve your play style, and get exposed to a wider variety of playstyles.

Shayne De Wildt is from Vancouver and plays Powerchair Soccer for the Vancouver Lightning. To learn more about Shayne, see his Athlete Profile.