By Stephanie Dolan
It’s easy to take for granted the basic abilities most of us have: walking, running, playing. Sadly, when we get to a certain age, many of us stop playing games in lieu of more “adult” activities like worrying about jobs, family, the mortgage or just what the unknown of tomorrow might be.
Sometimes play can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Sometimes it takes a person without these basic abilities to remind the rest of us to remember the things that are most important in life. Sometimes what we need is just to play a really great game.
According to their website, the Hot Shots Power Soccer Team is a team of transformation. It is comprised of eight individuals ranging in age from 9 to 36 years old. The team is made up of disabled players who utilize Strike Force wheelchairs to play the game of soccer on a basketball court. The Hot Shots are a part of the United States Power Soccer Association.
“I started playing for them this year,” the team’s oldest player, Marie Harmon, 36, said. “Right now it’s pretty much my life. I can’t work anymore. I run our social media page, and I do a lot of work behind the scenes. Ever Friday night we have practice and it’s draining. But it gets me out of the house and it helps me interact with people again. The adults as well as the kids. I can understand the parents’ situation dealing with the kids’ disabilities but I can also understand the kids’ struggles.”
A rare diagnosis
Harmon has a rare form of organic acidemia called 3-methylglutaconic aciduria. This disease causes mitochondrial disorder within the body.
“It basically causes an energy deficiency because of the mitochondrial disorder,” Harmon said. “I have severe fatigue. It causes neuromuscular disease. I have a neuromuscular lung weakness and I use a power wheelchair to get around pretty much 90 percent of the time. It’s actually part of the newborn screen now. When I was young I was actually very active and athletic. When I was 16, I started developing symptoms which caused me to have to stop running. I started playing wheelchair basketball at that time but wasn’t diagnosed. No one could figure out what was wrong with me throughout the rest of my high school career.”
Harmon wasn’t actually properly diagnosed until a geneticist ran a test when she was 31.
“Looking back it probably is something I was born with,” she said. “I just didn’t start manifesting its symptoms until later.”
Harmon’s husband, Michael, 35, is an IMPD officer who is also assistant coach of the team as well as president of the board.
“The coach asked if I’d be willing to help out,” Michael said. “I like doing the mentoring and training and coaching. As the season progressed I had more free time, so I started taking over more practices because I had the time to do more research on how people play.”
The board consists of one person from each team member’s family. They have created a 501(c)(3) to help with fundraising.
The Southside couple just celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary in May.
“We both kind of got into it at the same time,” Marie added. “I’ve always been active in sports even as a young kid. I’m the most competitive one in my family. I was the sports person and my two brothers were more artistic.”
Harmon was at one time a social worker for mental health agencies as well as a Marion County probation officer.
An exciting alternative
“Eventually my disease progressed to the point where I couldn’t work full time anymore,” she said. “I needed something to do. I heard about power soccer, looked it up and fell in love with it.”
“It’s definitely more exciting (than regular soccer),” Michael said. “I’ve watched soccer, and it’s very long and a ton of just passing and passing and passing. This is played on a basketball court. The action is close together. When someone has control of the ball there can only be two defenders. There is one goalie and three players on the floor. And the goalie is allowed to leave the goal and come out on the floor. Because of the speed of the chairs there’s constantly action going on. I’ve never been a fan of able-bodied soccer because it was just too slow for me. This is interesting to watch and watching people maneuver their chairs is extremely impressive.”
The game itself could be improved by just one more thing: donations.
“I would just like people to know that while we are a young team we’ve seen a lot of growth out of the brand-new kids who’ve never played before,” Harmon said. “They’re actually using chairs over 15 years old. They have what’s called Strike Force wheelchairs, and a lot of teams have sponsors and the best equipment. Our kids are holding their own against them. The biggest thing we need right now is some donations or corporate sponsorship so we can get the equipment we need so we can play at our full potential.”
For more information, or to make a donation, visit hotshotspowersoccer.com or find them on Facebook at Hot Shots Power Soccer Team.
5 Questions with the Harmons
Who or what inspires you?
Marie – For me a couple of things inspire me. The kids inspire me every day. The growth and improvement that they’ve made. Their dedication to the sport. They’re definitely going to go far. Starting out as a young age and learning a sport is different than starting out at 35. I also had an uncle with a disability – spinal muscular atrophy – he taught me how to live life to the fullest with a disability. That was prior to me developing my own symptoms. Remembering those moments as a child with him reminded me that it’s not the end of the world, life goes on and live every day to the fullest.
Do you have any pets?
Michael – We have four cats – all rescues. Kitt Kat, Reese, Oreo and Lilly.
What are you currently reading?
Marie – I am reading a book called Strangers Assume My Girlfriend Is My Nurse by Shane Burcaw. He’s very popular on YouTube. He has spinal muscular atrophy, and he’s a really funny guy – he talks a lot about his disability and how he overcomes obstacles.
Do you have a favorite movie-night movie?
Marie – Secondhand Lions
Describe your perfect date night
Marie – Staying home on the couch watching a movie together with our cats. Michael’s busy as an IMPD officer all week long and with soccer it takes a lot of energy out of me, so I don’t do a lot. It’s rare we go out and do anything because it wears me out.