Coach Sheena Hager of the Chicago Skyhawks NWBA Basketball League, along with several other coaches and athletes from across the U.S., hosted the Blind Soccer ID Camp in Rock Hill, S.C.
The event took place from July 8-10 and was organized by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) in conjunction with the Charlotte Independence Soccer Club.
“As the newly-certified national governing body for blind soccer in the U.S., we are fast-tracking our talent identification with camps around the country,” said USABA Program Director Kevin Brousard. “This week’s camp in Rock Hill provides us with a good mix of experienced athletes from previous camps alongside some newcomers to the sport. We are looking forward to the three days of instruction and scrimmages to help develop these athletes.”
According to the USABA, blind soccer is an adaptation of soccer for athletes with visual impairments. The sport is played in 60 countries and has become the fastest-growing Paralympic sport in the world. In January, the USABA received the highest level of certification from the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee to be the national governing body (NGB) for the Paralympic sport of blind soccer. Globally known as blind football, the sport has been part of the Paralympic Games program since 2004.
It was the second in a series of Building Blind Soccer events funded through US Soccer’s Innovate to Grow grant. The camp consisted of three full days of training with two on-field sessions each day at Manchester Meadows (337 E. Mt. Gallant Road, Rock Hill, S.C.).
In addition to the three full days of training, camp participants also attended Friday night’s game between the Charlotte Independence and the Richmond Kickers. The group honored blind soccer athlete and veteran Casimir Werda (Novi, Mich.) at halftime during their Military Appreciation Night event.
The U.S. will be making its Paralympic debut as the host country of the Los Angeles 2028 Games and last week’s camp in Rock Hill was an important step in identifying talented athletes for the first-ever USA Blind Soccer National Team to be named in October.
The first international competition for the inaugural USA Blind Soccer Team will be this December in Guatemala at the IBSA Central American Championships.
Among the 12 athletes participating will be three-time Paralympic track & field athlete David Brown (Chula Vista, Calif.). Brown was the 100-meter gold medalist at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and was the first totally blind athlete to run under 11 seconds when he clocked 10.92 in 2014. Fil Wilkinson, director of community engagement for the Charlotte Independence and director of adult soccer for Rock Hill, will be one of three coaches directing the camp.
For more information on how the game of blind soccer is played, visit https://www.usaba.org/sports/blind-soccer/paralympic-sport/.
Below are the Camp roster/coaches:
Camp roster: Noah Beckman (Dublin, Ohio); David Brown (Chula Vista, Calif.); Kevin Brown (Falls Church, Va.); Ricardo Castaneda (Fort Worth, Texas); Meghan Grenda (Redlands, Calif.); Cody Kirchner (New Brunswick, N.J.); Jadyn Heilman (Oakland, Calif.); Alvaro Mora (Phoenix, Ariz.); Jasmine Murrell (Plainfield, N.J.); Jefferson Palacios (Baltimore, Md.); Ahmed Shareef (Staten Island, N.Y.) Casimir Werda (Novi, Mich.).
Coaches: Sheena Hager (Chicago, IL); Katie Smith (Columbus, Ohio); Philip Wilkinson (Charlotte, N.C.).
Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago.