Good Sports: Central Valley Ghostriderz

FRESNO, Calif.

"I still remember it and it was probably one of the best feelings because I finally got an opportunity to play in an actual sport," Rutledge said.

Today, a roster of no less than six Central Valley Ghostriderz make up the only power soccer team for 150 miles. Nikki Cornell founded the team in 2010, inspired by Rutledge's love for the game.

"I saw how competitive he was I saw that he loved sports," said Cornell. "So I collaborated with his adaptive PE instructor and I said, "What can we do to try to get him more involved?"

Enter the fascinating combination of teamwork, geometry and the beautiful game. There are four players per team on the court at one time. The rules are very similar to soccer, with spacing allowances for a better game flow.

"Just everything about it is a blast and I just love it," said Rutledge. "It gives a lot of people a chance to do something that they never could before."

For Cornell and her husband, Frank, power soccer has opened their eyes and hearts to a whole new world, one where life's limitations don't matter, but where brain power and will to succeed take over.

"Their worlds expand to see some other opportunities to see some ways that they can shine," said Nikki Cornell. "Some ways that they can get involved and participate, to be competitive like most boys are."

"They play and they're aggressive and bang the chairs together and they go aggressive at things," said Ghostriderz Coach Frank Cornell, "where before they were very mild and very subdued and it's brought them out of their shell. It's so rewarding to watch. You can't imagine. That's why I'm here."

And now later this month, the Ghostiderz will host their annual power soccer tournament featuring teams from San Jose, Berkeley and Santa Barbara. Last year's event was an overwhelming success.

"We went 3-0 and beat all the teams pretty easily," said Rutledge. "The place was pretty packed and it was fun to have an almost full stands and people screaming and yelling when you score a goal."

And they're looking for an even better turnout this year.

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