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Wheelchair soccer lets players demonstrate competitive spirit
Hall County Parks and Leisure Facility manager Marci Summer talks with members of the North Georgia Screamin’ Eagles power soccer team during halftime at the East Hall Community Center. The team defeated the Charlotte Power Surge 2-0 during Day 2 of the power soccer tournament. From left are Tyler Farmer, Russell Gregory, Brian Farmer, Justin Pressley and Summer.

Tyler Farmer raised his arms triumphantly after scoring a goal in the second half of the North Georgia Screamin’ Eagles’ soccer game against the Charlotte Power Surge.

For Farmer, an 11-year-old wheelchair-using Hoschton boy with cerebral palsy and a fierce competitive streak, scoring goals may have become commonplace, but it never gets old.

"It feels really good," Farmer said afterward. "It feels like you achieved something and all your hard work and practice has paid off."

Farmer, a force on the hardwood who aggressively bumped and banged with opponents in his battery-powered wheelchair, led his all-ages team to a 2-0 victory during Saturday’s daylong tournament at the East Hall Community Center. The tournament drew teams from North Carolina, Tennessee, Atlanta and Carrollton.

Farmer and 26-year-old Russell Gregory may be the most valuable players of the Screamin’ Eagles, who take their sport seriously but still manage to have fun with it.

"If one scores, the other usually makes the assist," said Farmer’s father Brian. "They work really well together."

Gregory, 26, had a son watching from the sidelines just four years younger than his teammate. The Cornelia quadriplegic discovered power soccer two years ago, about a year after suffering a catastrophic spinal injury while testing out a bicycle ramp built by a nephew.

Between weekly practice and regular games, "it helps take up a lot of the free time that a lot of quads have," Gregory said. "It’s encouraging. When you have a spinal cord injury, it can be so devastating. This really brings your morale up."

Gregory introduced his friend, Carlin Camp, to power soccer. Camp, a 26-year-old from Gainesville, was left disabled from a car accident nearly two years ago. He said the sport serves as an outlet for pent-up energy and allows him to connect with others who share in his circumstances.

"I didn’t know there was this many people around here in my situation," Camp said. "For me, it’s been a learning experience."

Brian Farmer said he searched for a disability sport that had real winners and losers and would match his son’s drive to compete.

"From the time he was 3, he would rather watch SportsCenter on ESPN than cartoons," Farmer said. "We found this to be something he could do to get his competitive spirit out."
Said Tyler, "I’ve loved it from the start."

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