Shayne Gets a Kick Out of Football, Despite Everything

By Victor Schwartzman
November 4, 2014

Shayne De Wildt aims to win. “I am a competitive person. When I’m out on the court I feel I need to win. I’m not socializing, that’s how I go into games.”

The “game” in Shayne’s life is power wheelchair soccer (“football” to most of the world, and for the rest of this article.) He is hooked on getting a kick out of playing. But it is more than playing the game–being part of a team is also very important to Shayne. “I like the fact that I am playing in a sport, that I get to travel, that I get to network with people, that I get to be competitive. I love being a part of a team. I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve been doing it so long, the team I’m on. I love the people on the team.”

Shayne is 23. He lives in North Vancouver, having recently moved into his own apartment. His main interests revolve around being a Capilano University student and football. He has played football for seven or eight years–ever since he got a power wheelchair. Before, playing was impossible for him. But once he had the power wheelchair, an occupational therapist at his school suggested he try soccer?uh, football–and an athlete rapidly emerged.

Football is a team sport. Shayne has received an education in not just how to boot the ball between the goal posts. There are also the matters of handling the ball down the funding court and avoiding personal politics penalties. Canadian power wheelchair football teams are run by volunteers on razor thin budgets. With a little more funding and support, Canada could be a much bigger player on the world stage for athletes who have a disability. It certainly has plenty of athletes such as Shayne.

The situation led to Shayne learning about a lot more than how football is played and teams are organized, but he concentrated on being an athlete. He played many years with the North Shore Eagles, but the Eagles fell apart when its coach left. Now Shayne practices with the Vancouver team, but that team has about fourteen players, so he does not get as much practice time as he wants. His major efforts are now tied to the Burnaby team, where he practices and plays. But he has to get from North Vancouver to Burnaby, which requires well over half an hour each way. Shayne has an aide and a van, but his budget is very limited and gas is costly. Still, for him it is totally worth it.

“I was kind of always practicing with Vancouver, but I’m currently considered a Burnaby player. The Vancouver team has always accepted me and often invited me to practice with them. As we are struggling, I am helping with team development in Burnaby, to get our team off the ground.”

He has played on national-level teams, and was an ambassador on the National team when it went to France for the 2011 World Cup. One of his teams travelled to Quebec, to play a team there. And another recently played in Brazil. Playing football has taken Shayne far from home and created many opportunities. He has met many people and made many friends through the sport.

“I have made friendships playing football, plenty of them. Both with the parents and the players. They’ve had some heartaches themselves, of course, so has everyone, some are more extreme than others. I’m grateful for the parents’ commitment to this sport and helping us out, because we’re lacking in coaches and volunteers. We don’t have an active coach so we just get together and play and practice.”

A football team on the field is four people, including the goalie. As with any sport, that leaves players waiting. Shayne has to wait his turn, but he gets to play frequently, and when he does he thrives on the competition. “We played Brazil in the last tournament, just before the World Cup. We went down there in the end of April, to Rio.” Shayne got to see a fair bit of Rio during the tournament, and was upset at what he saw as a caste system which sharply discriminated based on income. In the competition, Shayne’s team placed third and he returned to Vancouver with a medal.

Right now, Shayne’s Burnaby team needs a coach. It needs more volunteers. And it could always use a little more money. “Money is needed for equipment. Our organization is nonprofit. Everyone volunteers their time.” The only cost to Shayne for being involved with the team is an annual $90 fee. More money is needed to cover equipment, team uniforms and trips within and outside of British Columbia.

Shayne appreciates the hard work of volunteers, and knows how difficult it can be for them, supporting the athletes by arranging playing and practice locations, connecting with other teams, providing administration and other supports?doing all the things necessary to keep a team going while leaving the athletes free to concentrate on honing their skills. “A lot of things they have to give up, it takes a lot of hours to help the team.”

Football is important but of course not the only thing important to Shayne. He currently takes elective courses at Capilano University, including upgrading his English. In January he plans to take courses on media concepts. But it is football to which he devotes two days a week, just for practice. There is a passion in his voice when talking about playing football and his team.

When asked what people should know about him, Shayne replied, “I like being social, going to social events and travelling. I love having all the up to date technology and like to troubleshoot issues. I’m a very laid back kind of guy, but I’m very outspoken in terms of when it comes to my own needs and wants. I would say that I’m way more outspoken than the regular person who has a disability, but I’m not sure if that is okay to say.”

As one of his concerns, Shayne noted the minimal amount of money he receives in support from British Columbia, which has not increased in over five years. “I am concerned about the money that we get on a monthly basis. It is not enough for people with disabilities. We have to find work, employment.”

The transportation system (HandyDART) for people who have a disability is also problematic. “It is really hard, you have to plan days ahead. And they only come to the North Shore to pick up clients in the morning, never in the afternoon. So I don’t use it. I do, however, use regular transit buses, the sky-train, and the sea bus, as they have come a long way in the past five to ten years for accessibility.”

Shayne was born in South Africa and moved to Canada with his family in 1997. He loves Canada and what it has to offer. “People with disabilities in South Africa are not considered the same as everyone else. What I mean by that is if I was still living there right now I would not have the same type of education that everyone else has. They segregate. I wouldn’t have a power chair, either.”

Rick Mercer did a funny piece about power wheelchair football, using Shayne’s team. You can see Shayne and the other athletes in the clip on You Tube, at [youtube http://youtube.com/w/?v=H6mhz3Bb74M.] Or go to You Tube and type in “Rick Mercer soccer,” and it should be the second clip listed.

To contact Shayne because after reading this article you know you have to do SOMETHING, type Shayne De Wildt into Facebook and message him, or email him at shayne.dewildt@gmail.com.

Next: Back To Bad Jokes!

Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly column to Accessibility News. Buy the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at http://www.amazon.ca/King-The-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/B00NE0CCRC or read the earlier drafts and current chapters for free, on the King Of The Planet Facebook page.

His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He also contributes to http://www.targetaudiencemagazine.com. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and hosts two writers’ circles. His email is vschwartzman@gmail.com.