Josh McKinney figures he has one more trip to the Paralympics left in him. Until then, he’s going to try and create that opportunity for others.
The captain of the U.S. National Paralympic soccer team, the Cary resident is working with CASL to create a local youth team for other eligible players aged 5-18 – people like McKinney with cerebral palsy as well as victims of strokes and traumatic brain injuries.
McKinney said similar programs are getting started in Atlanta and San Antonio with the idea of feeding the national team in the future, and he has three players signed up locally already. While Paralympic soccer is played seven-on-seven on a smaller field, the goal is to develop a team that can compete within CASL, which is supporting the project with jerseys and training-field time. An amputee team is a possibility as well.
“That’s going to be the biggest part, finding the kids, because there’s not as many chances out there for kids with disabilities,” McKinney said. “I didn’t have something like this growing up. I thought it would be perfect for someone who enjoys soccer and has a disability. If they want to play club soccer, this is a chance for them to do it. Eventually I’d like to get kids with disabilities on a team in CASL so they can compete against able-bodied athletes.”
In September, McKinney helped the United States to an eighth-place finish at the Paralympics in London and is one of four finalists for U.S. Soccer’s disabled athlete-of-the-year award. A veteran of the 1996 and 2004 Paralympics and the team’s all-time leader in appearances, he was shocked at the attention the event got within England.
“My parents went over to London to watch the games and I spent one day with them,” McKinney said. “When we came back to the hotel, they were talking about Paralympic soccer on national TV, going over a few of our players, and I was one of them.”
DeCock: (919) 829-8947; Twitter: @LukeDeCock