There’s just no end to some people’s creativity. Thirty-three years ago, above knee amputee Don Bennett was watching his son play basketball at their Seattle home. When the ball occasionally rolled out of the court toward him, Don, who was not wearing a prosthesis at the time, lifted himself up on his crutches and kicked the ball back to his son.
Most people would have stopped there, but Don thought, “If I can kick a basketball when I’m on crutches, why couldn’t it be a soccer ball? Why not amputees playing soccer?”
That summer he organized a group of amputees and they met every Saturday to play soccer on crutches. Their goalie had one arm and two legs. That group became the first amputee soccer team in the United States and went on to play in World Cup competition in Tashkent, Russia.
Originally from Ontario, Canada, Don lost his leg 41 years ago in a boating accident, but the limb loss didn’t stop him from skiing, swimming, canoe racing, mountain climbing and playing water polo and, of course, amputee soccer.
Don and his wife lived in Coeur d’Alene for 20 years and has been a Kootenai Prosthetics & Orthotics patient for two decades. Don has worked as a sales trainer and owned and managed Watches by Gosh in the Coeur d’Alene Resort shopping complex.
Don retired three years ago and the Bennetts now live in Mazatlan, Mexico, where he says the weather, beach and beautiful people make it a retirement paradise.
Amputee soccer caught on quickly in Europe, South America and Africa where it’s called “football” and ranks as a national pastime. Today 37 countries host amputee soccer teams, and World Cup events are held every two years. Many international teams enjoy the backing of disability organizations or government agencies, while U.S. teams rely on fund raising, private donations and team members often must pay their own way to competitive events. The strongest concentration of amputee soccer teams in the United States are in Seattle, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
In addition to promoting regional and international competitive soccer, the American Amputee Soccer Association focuses on helping establish recreational programs, helps form teams, and works with military and children's hospitals by conducting workshops and demonstrations across the country.
“Being an amputee,” Don says, “has given my life a real purpose to help amputees around the world build self-confidence, improve their self-image and give them an opportunity to play the fastest one-legged sport in the world.”
For more information on the American Amputee Soccer Association and to see photos of these amazing athletes in action, go to www.ampsoccer.org.