No stopping himWoodbury’s Pete Winslow was born without legs or a right arm. But that’s not stopping him from representing the United States as a world-class athlete this fall.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
Woodbury’s Pete Winslow was born without legs or a right arm. But that’s not stopping him from representing the United States as a world-class athlete this fall.
Winslow, 17, is the youngest of 12 members of the United States National Power Soccer team, Team USA, which will be defending its 2007 World Cup Championship in Paris, France this November.
“I’m pumped,” Winslow said. “I’ve never been out of the country before, so going to Paris is exciting and only a handful of people ever get to play for the U.S., so it means a lot.”
Winslow, a congenital quad amputee, uses a power wheelchair for mobility and for playing power soccer – the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users. The game is played in a gymnasium on a regulation basketball court. Two teams of four players attack, defend and spin-kick a 13-inch soccer ball in a skilled and challenging game similar to fully able-bodied soccer.
“I wasn’t a huge soccer fan before I tried it,” Winslow said. “But, the first time I tried it I fell in love with the sport right then and there.”
Winslow said what’s best about playing power soccer is being part of a team.
“That’s one of my favorite things,” Winslow said. “It’s fun being a part of a family like that. It’s nice to say that I belong to a team.”
Winslow, a senior at Stillwater High School, began playing power soccer four years ago.
Locally, he has played with the Courage Thunder and with the Minnesota Magic. With the Thunder, Winslow won the 2010 Div. 2 United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA) National Championship and 2011 USPSA Champions Cup National Championship.
Earning a spot on Team USA means Winslow is one of the top eight players in America. He said it was really exciting to make the team.
“I put in a lot of hard work,” Winslow said. “To be able to call myself one of the best eight players in the country and one of the best in the world is pretty special.”
Carolyn and Herb Winslow adopted Pete when he was six months old and enrolled him in programs like swimming at the Courage Center of Minnesota – a Minnesota-based rehabilitation and resource center, founded in 1928, that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence, which specializes in treating brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, chronic pain, autism and disabilities experienced since birth.
Not long ago, the Winslows were looking for a bike for Pete at a local expo, when they came upon a power soccer demonstration.
“When he saw what people were doing with wheelchairs, he thought that would be something he wanted to try out,” Herb Winslow said. “He got a chance to try it out that very day and he knew that it was something he wanted to do.”
After the expo, the Pete got started in power soccer through the Courage Center – and the rest is history.
“He just seemed to get really good, really fast,” Herb Winslow said. “He just has a really good, intuitive sense of where things were going to be happening and getting himself in a position to be in the right place at the right time.”
Pete said seeing his older siblings Laura, Dan, Jeff and Katy all compete in sports growing up, along with watching professional and college sports with his family, spurred his drive to play competitive sports, despite his disability.
“I grew up watching them do their thing,” he said. “I really enjoyed that. Also, I watched a lot of sports on TV with my older brothers, whether it was hockey, football, baseball or basketball. I’ve always been surrounded by sports.”
Since the ball doesn’t take to the air like regular soccer, Pete said he feels that power soccer is more similar to hockey, in aspects like using angles and spreading out the defense. He said what makes a good player is a competitive spirit.
Power soccer is not Pete Winslow’s only talent. He also plays the trombone for the Stillwater High School jazz band and pep band.
Pete said he looks at his sport in a competitive manner, just like any other athlete, but he said he also doesn’t mind being an advocate for the sport and setting an example for people with disabilities.
“This sport is something I’m successful in and I have fun doing it,” Pete said. “But, being recognized as a Team USA player I’ve done more things like demos or will talk to people in wheelchairs about the sport. Many of the players in this sport have pretty extreme disabilities. But, a lot of the good players out there have very little mobility. You just need to be able to move the joystick to be able to play.”
Team USA kicked off its bid to win the 2011 World Cup at Selection Camp in Carmel, Indiana from Nov. 19-21 of 2009. Head coach Chris Finn invited 20 players, including Winslow, to the camp. From the camp, 12 players were selected for the national team, to eventually be pared down to eight players on the starting roster and four alternates. Winslow was one of the eight athletes chosen to represent the United States at the highest level of competition in power soccer.
After being selected to Team USA two years ago, Winslow has been practicing at Stillwater High School roughly three hours a week and has attended a number of Team USA training camps around the country.
“Players and staff have shown a tremendous amount of dedication, commitment and passion over last two years of preparing for this moment,” Finn said in a release from the United States Power Soccer Association. “The one thing that makes all these players great is that we work together as a team. Every individual brings something unique and different to the game. When we put those attributes together, a powerful team is formed. Players are reaching new heights in creativity and strength to demonstrate dynamic play.”
Pete Winslow is now getting ready to leave for Paris on Oct. 23 for a week of training prior to the World Cup, which will be held Nov. 2-6. He said he is looking forward to his first trip out of the country, competing against the best teams in the world and bringing home a World Cup Championship. Pete said Team USA and host France are the favorites.
“We’re hoping to take it all,” he said. “But, we’re the reigning champs and that puts a big target on our backs. Everyone wants to be the team that took down the U.S. and you can never take any team lightly, but I think our chances are pretty good.”