Edition 17 | Summer 2019
In first national tournament, Ability360 FC returns with gold
Story by John and Kelly Beaubien
Photo by Alison Baionno
After months of peer-pressure from a good friend, I decided to play an adaptive sport: power soccer. Because I have muscular dystrophy, I figured that was the only sport I could play.
I started by test-driving one of the power soccer Strike Force chairs. Now, some of the video clips I’d seen of the game made it look slow and boring, but man was I wrong! The joystick is so sensitive; you might’ve thought I was having a seizure based on how I was swerving left and right. I gained a bit more control driving at faster speeds, and I was immediately hooked!
I officially tried out in September 2018, and to my amazement, I made the team! I was thoroughly addicted to the rush I feel playing each game.
I’m married with children and work for an organization that serves the disability community, so I know what it feels like to be part of something significant, but somehow this felt different.
We participated in local tournaments to build our in-game skills and meet the requirements to enter, for the first time, into the annual United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA) national tournament.
Our team, Ability360 FC entered into the Founders Division of the 2019 USPSA MK Battery Conference Cup Series at the Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities. The Founders Division is the fourth out of four levels.
As the days counted down, I started to hear support from everyone around me. As the tournament drew near, I felt excited, and my stomach let me know I was also nervous.
It was time to chart that dotted line on the map. We began our day at 3 a.m. and landed in Chicago around 2 p.m. local time. We then loaded our gear into a couple of vans and the Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association bus/trailer combo. On that drive, locked into the floor with my teammates, I think we leveled up to family.
Before and after each game, we honor our friend and teammate who passed away this year by saying his name, Austin. The first game against Sac Valley Flames we lost, but soon after, we gained momentum, beating one team after another.
On the third day, after battling some really tough teams, we faced Sac Valley Flames again. This time was different. This time we were ready with a new strategy. The horns signaled the end of the game and the score read Ability360 FC: 4, Sac Valley Flames: 0.
As our team came together in center-court I caught our team captain/coach, Tony Jackson turning his head left to right as he yelled “Yes! Yes!”
As we gathered in a circle, our chair guards clanged together in traditional power soccer high-five style but with a little more energy. I thought to myself, “Wow, we did it!” Even out loud, it was unbelievable. This was the first time I’d achieved so much with a team at this level of competition, and it felt great! At that moment, I realized how important this was to me because I could feel myself tear up.
At the USPSA banquet, our team was called to the stage to receive honors. The first place trophy was ours! We celebrated with our trophy and individual medals on the dance floor.
The next day, we made the long journey back to Arizona as national champions.
From Kelly Beaubien’s Perspective:
Since September 2018, my family has been a power soccer family. We have been to the local games and supported all season. Then we found out about nationals. The excitement came over as we began to plan our trip to Fort Wayne, IN. We were ready for the journey and to be the best cheerleaders there.
After a long day of travel from Phoenix to Chicago and drive to Fort Wayne, we were finally ready for the tournament. As we walked into the Turnstone Center, excitement perked us all up.
Before the first match against the Sac Valley Flames, I could sense the nerves kicking in for my husband and his teammates. They wanted to win. As they played, my children cheered and encouraged the siblings and caregivers of the team members to join in to help bring up the moral. Unfortunately, the team lost 3 to 1.
They were all devastated. What if this was the expectation for all the games? What if they didn’t win at all? The negative thoughts started to overtake. But with support from the families and caregivers, we brought them back to their second game with more confidence.
The feeling of confidence was overwhelming and they pushed through for the win with a score of 4-1.
That game kicked off their winning streak. Game-after-game, the team, pushed together and won. They had some tough games, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats.
As we walked around the facility between games, you could hear other teams and spectators talking about Ability360.
As we made our way to the final game for the Championship, the nerves started to boil over again with the players. They were up against the Sac Valley Flames again, the first and only team to beat them, who were also undefeated up until that point. The negative thoughts came back, but we had to keep their minds on the positive.
It was the longest 40 minutes ever. As the final whistle signaled the game was over, our group erupted in noise. They came out on top, 4 to 0. Ability360 FC was the championship team. Pride beamed from the court as we all gathered the players for a photo.
Later that evening, we celebrated as they received their trophy and medals. This team came together for the love of the sport, not just for a prize. We came home the next day, a little taller and a lot happier. I am so proud of the athletes and how hard they worked, and we are already counting down the days until next year’s tournament.
John Beaubien is Ability360’s Graphic Design and Marketing Specialist. He earned his bachelor’s degree in graphic and web design from the Art Institute of Phoenix. John is knowledgeable in accessible design. He enjoys cooking, spending time with his family and learning about new technology.
Read more by John Beaubien.
Kelly Beaubien has been a member of the Ability360 family for over five years as a caregiver. Kelly has a bachelors in education from Arizona State University and teaches English to ESL students. She is the mother of two boys and wife to Ability360 graphic designer, John Beaubien. In her free time, she enjoys crafting and the occasional live 5K or virtual race.
Read more by Kelly Beaubien.