U.S. Power Soccer Team Head Coach Chris Finn Talks About World Cup Win
The U.S. Power Soccer Team recently claimed the World Cup trophy for the second consecutive time. The head coach is Chris Finn, a former soccer player who dreamed of playing in a World Cup but suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of 21. Finn discovered that power soccer gave him as much enjoyment as traditional soccer, and he became the U.S. coach when the team was formed in 2006. ussoccer.com asked Finn about the team earning its second World Cup and why power soccer is so important to these players.
ussoccer.com: How did the team prepare for the World Cup?
Chris Finn: “The team started preparing about two and a half years before the World Cup. I started sending out some drills and things for people to prepare in order to apply for those teams. There was an application process first where they had to do a certain amount of drills and skills, and also videotape them. They’re coming from all over the country, and I’m familiar with most of the players, but not all. There was the selection camp—and we had about eight camps—which consisted of three days of training throughout the two years before the World Cup. Each week I would send out a set of drills for the players to do and then report back to me and the team how they did in order to give them feedback to keep improving and adjusting the drills in order to keep focusing on certain skills we needed in order to improve.”
ussoccer.com: What went into the preparation?
CF: “We wanted to spend a little bit more time preparing compared to the 8-12 months of preparation for the first World Cup. We knew everyone was going to be gunning for us because we’d be the number one team. We wanted to spend a good two years or more preparing so we knew we’d be at the point of being able to repeat as champions. Although that’s what we wanted, it was definitely a long process that took a lot of time, effort and money for people to commit to, which at times became difficult. We didn’t have any sponsorship or people helping us, and everybody was participating as volunteers, including staff and players, and fundraising for their own participation. That became a little bit difficult, but at the same time, everybody’s doing it because they love the sport, and they love what we’re doing and what our objective was: a repeat of the World Championships.”
ussoccer.com: Congratulations on winning two World Cups in a row. That’s a great achievement.
CF: “It’s something that only two teams in the history of soccer [at the full national team level] have been able to do—Italy and Brazil. No teams in the
modern era, no teams in the last 50, 60 years have been able to do that.”
ussoccer.com: What was the experience of the World Cup like for you and the players?
CF: “Preparing for the first World Cup, I went in believing that we were going to win. Even some of the people around me in the U.S. thought I was crazy. No one thought we had a chance, but we came out victorious. I think for the second World Cup, I had the exact same expectations that we would come out and win, because I knew we had some of the best athletes in the country—if not the world—and we would be able to compete with anybody. We trained hard and focused on the goal, and I think the biggest and most important thing is that we really did it as a team. It was a team effort, and even though we have arguably the best player in the world on our team in Michael Archer, who was the MVP and one of the top goal scorers of the tournament, it wasn’t just Michael. It was the team effort that really allowed us to compete at that high level and be able to win.”
ussoccer.com: Why is it important to have a power soccer team and for them to be able to compete on an international level?
CF: “When you put it that way, I think both of those go together. I think it’s important in any sport that you have the highest level of play possible, and that’s international competition and the World. In about 2004 or 2005, countries started talking with each other—France, Portugal, Japan, the U.S. and a few others—and started collaborating to develop this international federation and decided to have a World Cup and establish that top level of play. I think it’s important for the players who are starting out, all the way through the ranks, to have that, because it’s something people dream about: being at that top level and winning that World Cup. For a lot of people, that’s what sports or participating in any activity is all about: achieving their dreams.”
ussoccer.com: What does it mean to the players to be able to participate in a sport like power soccer?
CF: “For people with disabilities, power soccer is one of the only opportunities for some to be totally independent, because some of them require 24-hour care for daily living. When they get out on the court, it’s them making their own decisions with their team. For them to be able to do that, whether it’s at a recreation level or whether it’s playing in a World Cup, that in itself is almost more powerful for a person than anything else, because what that does is helps them realize that there’s more that they’re able to do. There’s more possibilities out in the world, and now that it’s opened up to them, the sky’s the limit. Sport helps people with all the intangibles like leadership, confidence, self-esteem, decision making, all those different things. I think for people with disabilities in power soccer, it’s times 1000 because of how some people aren’t expected to do certain things or aren’t pushed to do certain things or aren’t included in certain things, and when they finally are, it’s like 1000 light bulbs go off instead of just one, and they realize and see that there’s so many other possibilities not only in sports, but in life, that they’re able to achieve.”
ussoccer.com: What’s next for the team?
CF: “Well our goal is to be the only team in soccer history to win three World Cups in a row. Whether I’m the coach or not again, what I’m proposing is to hold a development camp for the next two years to allow us to invite and see some of the up-and-coming players, not only so the coaches can see the players and their skills and how they’re developing, but also for the sport to develop. It’s not only the national team that can learn more about the players and benefit from that type of camp, but also so that coaches can develop their own local organizations a little bit more and become stronger and more competitive and encourage more people to participate. That’s what we want, is to expand the sport and create more opportunities for people to participate and realize those dreams and have power soccer be a part of that.”