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Timothy Donovan cries out with glee as he pushes the oversized soccer ball into the goal with his wheelchair. He then races to tell his dad about his feat.
"I like making goals," said Timothy, a student at Russell Elementary School in Quantico.
Observing similar moments of triumph led Debbie Locastro to volunteer to help get Fairfax County's first power soccer league off the ground.
Power soccer is the first competitive team sport designed for power wheelchair users, according to the U.S. Power Soccer Association, the governing body for the sport. Other wheelchair sports, including basketball, are for manually powered wheelchairs.
When she first watched the sport during a clinic in Reston last year, "it was neat to see the parents on the sidelines cheering for [the players]," said Locastro, an adapted physical education teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools.
After the successful trial program in Reston, the Fairfax County Community and Recreation Services' Therapeutic Recreation Division launched its first full season of the Northern Virginia Patriots Power Soccer Club earlier this month. The club is open to any power wheelchair users 5 or older who can control their wheelchairs.
The rules for power soccer are similar to traditional soccer. Teams of four players, including one goalkeeper, use plastic or metal guards mounted to the fronts of their chairs to maneuver the ball, which is larger than a standard soccer ball.
A power wheelchair travels at speeds of up to 12 mph, but the top power soccer players can stop on a dime, deftly changing direction of their wheelchairs to take control of the ball to pass it or attempt a goal kick, Ted Phillips said.
"That's really the beautiful thing about this sport," said Phillips, whose son Steve, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, is an active member of the Patriots.
The Fairfax group, which now has eight members who compete against each other, is working toward developing a team that can compete within the U.S. Power Soccer Association.
"He's very proud to be part of this league," said Phillips, interpreting his son's remarks. Steve has a speech impairment. "He wants to win the national championship."
Like at any other sports practice, the players begin with warm-ups, practicing maneuvering the ball with the plastic guards on their chairs. In drills, they practice passing the ball to their teammates, scoring goals and performing corner kicks -- a maneuver that involves a quick 180-degree spin of the chair to generate power and directional control.
Playing power soccer also has therapeutic benefits for the players, Locastro said.
"I'm seeing their self-confidence has increased," she said. "They're trying new things, taking a little more risk."
June White says she sees the benefits for her daughter Norma, a student at Fox Mill Elementary School in Herndon, who has been playing since last year.
Join the Patriots
-The Northern Virginia Patriots Power Soccer League is looking for players, volunteer coaches and sponsors. Contact Katelyn Masterson at 703-324-5517 or katelyn.masterson
-Power wheelchair users
5 and older who can control their own chairs are eligible. Participation is free; the county provides guards and balls.