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Georgia Games put disabled athletes on the field
World Cup soccer on TV inspires many athletes
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Kim Keeney and Kevin Williams tangle near midcourt Saturday during the Georgia Games Power Soccer Championship at the North Hall Community Center. Williams’ team, the Charlotte Power Surge, won the game. - photo by NAT GURLEY

It all came down to Jerry Frick’s spin.

Pushing the ball a little too far to the right, his shot for team Sting bounced off the post during a penalty shootout, a rarity in the sport. For longtime power soccer enthusiasts, this was a sight to see.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen this,” said Kim Keeney, program coordinator for Athens Inclusive Recreation and Sports, referring to the sudden death shootout.

The North Hall Community Center was host to the Georgia Games on Saturday, with athletes from wheelchair basketball, power soccer and beep baseball taking the field.

The Georgia Games brought around 100 participants to the community center and included teams from all over the Southeast, ranging from Alabama to Virginia. Wheelchair basketball made its first appearance at the Georgia Games this year.

Frick of Flowery Branch, who has played power soccer since the early 1990s after a life-changing injury, has seen the game grow from just six teams in the United States to a worldwide sport.

“At the age of 19 when I broke my neck and I was in a motorcycle accident, I thought my life was over,” he said. “But I found the sport of power soccer.”

Power chairs have a maximum speed of 6.2 miles per hour, which means passing is paramount. As a result, kids that aren’t as social, Frick said, can develop life skills and build friendships through the game.

While the World Cup heads into the knockout round, one power soccer competitor, Kevin Mulholland, returned from Brazil after playing for the United States team in the COPA Americas competition.

“To be there a month before the World Cup was awesome, as well as to play for the U.S. and meet players from around the world,” he said. “It truly is an honor to play for my country.”

Watching a match atop his Strike Force power chair, the nine-year veteran Mulholland enjoys the camaraderie of the sport as well as the opportunity to enjoy soccer.

“It gives us an opportunity to play instead of just watching our brothers and sisters play it or watching it on TV,” he said.

With more than 60 teams in the United States and spreading to 15 countries internationally, the growth of power soccer is evident in our own backyard. The North Georgia Screamin’ Eagles in Flowery Branch competed against Frick’s Sting in the Champions conference throughout the 2013-2014 season.

“I was a commercial fisherman before,” Frick said. “Now I get to mentor and teach young kids how to play the sport and show their parents these kids can do something.”

In beep baseball, the final game came down to the Columbus Midnight Stars and the Athens Timberwolves, a game played with blindfolds for all players except the pitcher and catcher.

Using a specialized beeping baseball, players swing blindly at the baseball, running toward the sound of the bases. The Midnight Stars would go on to win the game, as the Timberwolves returned home with the silver medal.