Jennifer Giglio: Passionate about Power Soccer
“Independence means doing things on my own and having freedom.”– Jennifer Giglio
A young college student credits SportsNet for gaining more independence.
For Jennifer Giglio (Jenn), a fourth-year college student majoring in Environmental Conservation, communicating with others can be challenging. However, that hasn’t stopped her from learning all she can about the environment and playing Power Soccer.
Born with Cerebral Palsy (CP) - a condition that affects the brain causing difficulty in body movements and muscle coordination - Jenn is unable to walk or speak independently.
To help her communicate, Jenn uses a speech-generating device called a DynaVox that gives her a voice.
“Her upper body movement is limited,” says Jenn’s mom Lisa. “So Jenn uses a scanning method on her Dynavox and she clicks a switch with her right knee to select words to form sentences so she can communicate.”
Jenn also uses facial expressions and body language to express herself.
One of Jenn’s goals is to become an environmental lawyer. “I would also like to have an apartment with a friend,” says Jenn. “And have my aids there to take care of my physical needs.”
Jenn is a sports enthusiast who enjoys watching basketball, baseball, soccer, and football. She also likes to go fishing, camping, biking and bowling. Her passion? Playing Power Soccer.
Power Soccer is a competitive team sport designed and developed for power wheelchair users. Players may include people with cerebral palsy, head trauma, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, quadriplegia, spinal cord injury, stroke, as well as other disabilities.
Power Soccer combines the skill of the wheelchair user with the speed and power of the chair itself, making for a challenging game. It’s usually played in a gymnasium on a regulation basketball court.
Two teams of four power wheelchair users attack, defend, and spin-kick a 13-inch soccer ball in an attempt to score goals.
“A guard is mounted on the front footplate area of the wheelchair,” says Lisa, who also assists the coaches of Jenn’s Power Soccer team – Speed Demons. “The ball is hit with the guard and rolled down the court. The concept is the same as traditional soccer: get the ball in the goal and work as a team!”
Power Soccer was first introduced to Rochester in 2002 when a traveling band of players from Atlanta, GA arrived to host a Power Soccer clinic with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) of Rochester.
“We were very interested to see this sport in action,” says Nancy Steinkamp, Director of Physical Rehabilitation Services at Rochester Rehabilitation, “because it was specifically designed to enable people who use power wheelchairs to participate in a competitive sport.”
At the time MDA called her, Nancy was running SportsNet and looking to introduce more adaptive sports. The first clinic held was so successful that SportsNet purchased equipment to run more clinics. Four years later, Cerebral Palsy (CP) Rochester called Nancy to discuss their interest in forming a Power Soccer team.
“The purpose of SportsNet is to network, share resources and collaborate,” says Nancy. “It made sense for our agencies to partner and work on a common mission to grow the sport.”
The combined effort of CP Rochester and SportsNet ensures a well-run, cost-effective program. It also allows the team more opportunities to compete and showcase Power Soccer.
“When I first volunteered with the Power Soccer team,’ recalls Anita O’Brien, SportsNet Manager, “I had encouraged a group of adult power chair users to attend a practice. When they played Power Soccer, it was the first time in their lives that they felt the energy of a competitive sport – the adrenaline, the power, the drive, the urge to move faster and better than someone else, to steal the ball and score! They were sweating, laughing, gritting teeth, and getting called for fouls left and right! Total exhilaration! People who have engaged in competitive sport know this feeling well.”
Here, Lisa and Jenn share their thoughts on Power Soccer, SportsNet, and what it means to them.
Q: How did you learn about Power Soccer?
Jenn: About 7 years ago, our neighbor Tracy was going to school to become a Special Ed teacher. She heard about it and told me because she thought I would like it.
Q: Why is your team named Speed Demons?
Jenn: We voted and we picked this name because we like to go fast and we are daredevils!
Q: What do you like most about Power Soccer?
Jenn: The competition. I like to be competitive!
Q: Lisa, how did you get involved with assisting the Speed Demons coaches?
Lisa: When Jenn began playing, I was just sitting on the bench. I am not a very good candidate for sitting still, and I could see that the coaches desperately needed help. I offered them a hand and well, here I am today!
Q: What are the pros and cons to coaching your own child?
Lisa: Well sometimes Jenn wants to run me over - just kidding. It’s a little tough coaching your own child only because as parents we are much more critical of our own children. But we really do have fun.
Sometimes I have to play when we don't have enough players to make a team. If I am on the opposite team – look out Mom! Jenn wasn't kidding when she said she was competitive.
Q: How has SportsNet made a difference in Jenn's life?
Lisa: Playing soccer through SportsNet has given her the chance to participate instead of always being a spectator. It has given her confidence and increased her independence. SportsNet has given Jenn the opportunity to make good friends and meet great people.
Q: How has SportsNet made a difference in your life?
Lisa: It has given me great joy being able to watch my daughter play a sport in a wheelchair. Through SportsNet, I have also made a lot of friends. I love the team like they are my own kids! Some of them even call me Mom.
Q: Have you tried other adaptive sports? Which ones?
Jenn: Yes. Bicycling, outrigger canoeing, hockey.
Q: How do you think SportsNet helps others?
Jenn: It helps people socialize and it helps them become more independent.
Q: What would you like others to know about SportsNet?
Jenn: It is fun and you can make new friends!
Play Power Soccer!
SportsNet is holding Fall Power Soccer sessions beginning September 24th. Participants will learn Power Soccer skills and game rules, practice plays, and develop team dynamics. Practices are held every other Saturday in Henrietta, and there is a fee to participate.
The Speed Demons Power Soccer team is made possible through a partnership between SportsNet and CP Rochester. The team practices weekly and competes with regional teams in the spring. Medical Motor Service transports the team.