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Cover Story

Paralympic soccer club at Morgan's Wonderland opens new doors

Photo: Steven Gilmore, License: N/A

Steven Gilmore

Jada Cano and Makayla Adams practice power soccer.

Photo: , License: N/A

Makayla beams at power soccer practice.

Daniel began playing soccer at the age of 7 with his brother who does not share the disability that cerebral palsy brings. He fell in love with the pace of the game almost instantly, along with the chemistry with teammates required to succeed. His favorite player is Wayne Rooney of celebrated Manchester United, but unlike Wazza he prefers to roam the midfield.

"The first thing I do is I like to sit down and pray and I just thank God for giving me this day to live," says Daniel describing his pre-game routine. "Then I warm up go out there and do my best and leave the field knowing I gave it everything I could. That's a typical day."

Off the field, Daniel displays an intelligence and humbleness not normally associated with the typical teenage American athlete. His ultimate goal is to reach Brazil and represent the United States at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Although he cites South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius' historic performance at the recent Olympic Games in London as a major inspiration, he realizes that there is plenty of work to be done to change society's perception of athletes with disabilities.

"I want to disprove a stereotype," says Daniel with conviction. "A lot of people see disabilities and they shun you, they ostracize you. My goal throughout my everyday life is to advocate through the way I interact with other people and just say we're not different. A lot of us are very open to questions so feel free to ask what's wrong. My goal is to live every day to the fullest and to show people that disabilities can actually be abilities in some cases."

Over at the gym Jada is back in motion, rocking a burnt orange Longhorns jersey and practicing with visions of her impending first game as inspiration. Coach Jackson surveys the action from the sidelines contemplating strategies on how he can bring this diverse group of individuals together in a celebration of sports. John and Maritza cheer Jada on, and as she flashes them a smile and a quick wave.

"She really focuses on being a doctor or a nurse, something to help people get better," shares Maritza. "I think she focuses on the health care profession a lot because of her situation. She says by the time she's old enough, she's going to go to college and find a cure for her and everyone else."

As the sun sets on the butterflies, the carousel, and the quarry, Morgan's Wonderland lights up. For those within proximity it serves as a beacon for the true spirit of sports in which the STRAPS program strives to endure. In an era where professional athletes are all too often mired in contracts, controversy, and off-field transgressions, a refreshing change in perspective presented by this local community merits appreciation.

"It's so awesome to come out here and work with a group of guys for one common goal," Daniel exclaims. "You want to go out there and give it your best. If I had to define what's beautiful about it, it's just that feeling you get when you play. You're there, you're giving it your all, and there's nothing better than that. To go out there and glorify our Father in heaven by playing this wonderful game, there's nothing better than that. I guess that's why it's beautiful."

2012 Program Days and Times

Wheelchair Soccer
7-9pm, Tue
Morgan's Wonderland Event Center
5223 Davis Edwards Drive
(512) 914-3152
Through Nov 13

Power Soccer (youth and adults)
6:30-8:30pm, Weds
Morgan's Wonderland Event Center
5223 Davis Edwards Drive
(512) 914-3152
Through Nov 14

Ambulatory/Paralympic Soccer
6:30-8pm, Wed
Star Soccer Complex
5103 David Edwards Drive
(512) 914-3152
Through Nov 14

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