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Soccer gives team power trip
Screamin' Eagles hope to increase awareness of sport
Screamin’ Eagle wheelchair soccer teammates Ricky Burnette, left, and Jason Hare pass the ball during practice.

Though Anne Fuqua has a six-hour train ride each week from Birmingham, Ala., to Gainesville so she can play with Flowery Branch’s power soccer team, the North Georgia Screamin’ Eagles, she has one thing to say:

“It’s worth it. I love it so much.”

This love for the sport is a common thread among the other team members, who put in the work it takes on and off the court each week to make their team great.

Power soccer, an unconventional version of the sport, can be just as intense and demanding as that played with feet on the field.

Named after the motorized wheelchairs the athletes play in, power soccer combines the logistics of the game with adaptations for the athletes in their wheelchairs. Because it is the fastest-growing sport for those in power wheelchairs, power soccer has reached beyond borders to become an international sport, with approximately 60 teams in the United States under the United States Power Soccer Association.

The Screamin’ Eagles are in the Southeastern League and a member of the Champions Conference, along with 11 other power soccer teams.

There is no age limit for power soccer athletes, and those who play have conditions such as muscular dystrophy, quadriplegia and cerebral palsy, among others.

For Carlin, Anne, Russell, Ricky, Jason and Austin, the athletes who make up the 2012 Screamin’ Eagles, the sport has become a way of life. Most of the Screamin’ Eagles have been playing power soccer for five or six years and competing across the United States in games and tournaments.

Their dedication to the sport and their team comes through not only as they play, but also in their efforts off the court. Several members, such as Fuqua, travel to get to practices in Hall County each week. Fuqua decided to change from her team in Alabama out of her love for the competition the Screamin’ Eagles have been known to bring.

The Screamin’ Eagles look to fundraising each season to find those who are willing to sponsor their team for needs such as travel to tournaments across the Southeast and other competitive necessities. This year, the team plans to have several community events for the public to take part in and learn more about power soccer as well as help raise funds.

The Screamin’ Eagles’ coach, Russell Gregory, said people may not realize the hard work that goes into getting a team ready to compete in power soccer.

“There’s a lot that has to be done here. We have to fill out insurance forms, a bunch of paperwork,” said Gregory.

But he added that the work is worth the effort.

“It’s been a long journey, but it’s a lot of fun. When you get into it, everything else just kind of zones out.”

Although this is his first season coaching, Gregory is no stranger to the sport.

“My friend called me up and said, ‘Do you want to play soccer?’ I was like, ‘Is this some kind of joke?’” said Gregory as he pointed to his legs in the wheelchair.

He has been playing competitively for six years.

This season, the Screamin’ Eagles are hoping to increase public awareness of power soccer by inviting the community to come to their practices, games and fundraisers.