By Mark Ambrogi
Natalie Russo initially had no desire to try another wheelchair sport.
“I never thought sports was something I’d even like, because I would play handicapped softball, which was someone else hitting the ball, and I would just go to the base,” the Carmel resident said. “When I heard about power soccer, I didn’t want anything to do with it because it sounded liked another dumb sport. I was forced to play until they had enough people around here. The first time I put the guard (on the wheelchair) and tried it out, I never stopped. It ended up being something I never imagined.”
That was 13 years ago. Russo, 27, played on the 2007 World Cup team, which went to Japan. The 2007 Carmel High School graduate is now one of 12 members of Team USA preparing to play in the World Cup in Kissimmee, Fla., in 2017. Russo, who has a form of muscular dystrophy, has been in a wheelchair since the age of two. A web builder, Russo works for the Canadian Yellow Pages in an Indianapolis office.
The 2011 Ball State University graduate said playing power soccer boosted her confidence.
“I’ve gotten to do so many things with other parts of my life because of soccer, especially traveling,” Russo said. “I can also show younger kids how I can live my life going to college, driving my own car, living on my own and working.”
She has helped conduct clinics in Australia and Brazil.
Her mother, Karen Russo, said other parents took notice of what her daughter has achieved.
“Natalie is a role model for all these other families in the area, and all of a sudden a light bulb goes off and they say, ‘If she can do it, so can I,’” Karen said.
Russo said some youngsters ask her online if they would get to meet her at the World Cup.
“I say, ‘You realize I’m just Natalie, and I’m not like Taylor Swift,’” said Russo, who plays for the Circle City Rollers.
Russo’s brother, J.C., 25, also competed in power soccer in the past. Her father, Dominic, is the president of the United States Power Soccer Association. Karen is the chair of 2017 World Cup and president of Power Soccer of Indy.