Six players from around the United States prepared with three months of individual weekly training and one weekend of team training before going to Paris, France to compete. Everyone was excited from the organizers, our sponsors, MK Battery, to the players to have an international event that allowed for the development of younger players in the sport. One week before traveling to Paris, Jake Bath, the youngest member of the US squad, broke his leg. His doctor did not allow him to travel to the tournament. Jake was extremely disappointed because he had worked so hard to fundraising for a new wheelchair for competition and travel expenses. The team honored Jake in their travels by sharing his face with the world with a life-size print out of a picture of his face (that they aptly named "Jake Face"). The team carried Jake with them wherever they went. In the locker room, the sidelines, touring around the Eiffel Tower and made him honorary captain flipping the coin against Ireland in the semi final game. The team demonstrated true team spirit leaving no player behind as best they could. Jake Face even became more well-known than any of the other players on the team by the end of the tournament because everyone was so curious about him and what he meant to the team.
Going into the tournament, the coaching staff felt confident that the team would do well with the players we had: Riley, Zach, Lexi, Michael and Tyler. Jake would be missed and the others would rally together in his absence. The players started the first game with jitters, not knowing what to expect. A few minutes later they shook off any hesitation and scored their first goal. The goal seemed to help break the tension, loosen them up and they began playing with more fluidity. A player from the French select team challenged Riley dribbling the ball down the court and tipped over. This was a dramatic moment during the match. No one likes to see a player tip over for fear of injury to the player and damage to the chair. Fortunately, the player recovered for the next game. The players finished the game mentally shaken from the French player falling over. We regrouped in the locker room hoping for the health and safety of the athlete, who fell and all other players competing and refocused on our game plan for the rest of the tournament.
Each game the players increased their level of play, coming closer together as a team and more dominant on the court. The team became more confident with every win. We incorporated a passing style of play reminiscent of Spain's World Cup team in 2010 in outdoor soccer. The US was able to control the pace of the game and move the ball through the defense to create numerous opportunities capitalizing on many of them. The team became more united with each game on and off the court. This was evident by the increase in scores and by the camaraderie developed between the players having fun with each other and the other athletes. Watching them quickly grow together as a team was exciting because it showed the potential and the power of US power soccer and how electrifying, beautiful and fun the sport is to watch.
Each athlete on the US team has talents and skills that benefited the team in the tournament. Riley was the captain, playmaker and team leader. Zach harnessed his power and could see the opportunities on the floor. Lexi was a calm and confident force in the middle setting everyone up for success with her precision passing. Michael spent more time playing goalie than anyone else and maximized his time not playing goalie to score the most goals in the tournament and get the Golden guard award for 15 goals scored. Tyler contributed with intelligent play making strong passes and finishing when he had the opportunity.
Winning the tournament put a smile on our faces and joy in the hearts of players, parents and spectators proud of the accomplishment. The United States continues to dominate in the sport of power soccer worldwide. Young players are growing and developing around the country faster with the advances of new equipment. The best part is knowing that each player contributed all they could to make the best possible team and grew not only as a player, but as a person in the process to succeed in life.