When Ian Kinmont suggested the establishment of a power soccer club at Santa Rosa Junior College and asked Kathy Bell to be the faculty adviser, it mattered little that Bell knew nothing about the sport.
Bell, an adaptive physical education teacher who works with students with spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other medical issues, said she was initially skeptical that Kinmont could generate enough interest to sustain a team in which players who use power wheelchairs to dribble and pass a larger-than-typical soccer ball on a playing field that is usually a basketball court.
Two years later, with the Rolling Bears holding weekly practices and pulling in new players, Bell is a believer.
“It’s just kind of slowly building,” she said, crediting Kinmont’s drive for the club’s success. “He’s just been dogged about it.”
The team, the Rolling Bears, debuted this week with a 3-5 loss to the Sacramento Valley Flames in the gym at Analy High School.
Played in different forms around the world for decades, power soccer is now becoming a regulated international sport with a governing body and uniform set of rules. Just like in traditional soccer, a World Cup is held every four years. But unlike in traditional soccer, the U.S. has brought home the trophy in 2007 and again in 2011 — the only two World Cups held.
“When you are watching the sport, you are watching something in its genesis,” said Ben Kinmont, Ian’s dad who for eight years has helped get Ian, now 21, from Sebastopol to Berkeley for power soccer practices with a competitive Bay Area team.
Ian Kinmont, 21, was convinced that if Sonoma County residents found out about power soccer, there would be more than enough interest to build and sustain a team.
“Here’s a population of people who have never had a chance to compete in their lives,” Ben Kinmont said. “To him, that’s where the spirit is. He likes that people are meeting each other, that everybody plays together. Everyone has the right to play.”
Ian, who has cerebral palsy, is fresh from a national championship with his Berkeley Crushers club this spring. He doesn’t compete with the Rolling Bears, he’s the coach and president of the club. He sets up practice, dreams up fundraisers and works to find teams the Rolling Bears can compete with.