Sportable welcomed Shea Hammond, U.S. Paralympic National Team player, to lead the CP soccer clinic attended by 10 youth athletes. An 18-year old native of Montclair, NJ, Shea became the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic National Team at age 16 and made his international debut at the World Championships in 2019. He currently attends Clemson University as a student athlete in the Clemson University Paralympic Soccer Program, a one-of-a-kind program that allows elite players to train in a 7v7 small-sided format while working toward their university degrees.
Shea and his family founded CP Soccer US, a non-profit organization committed to building a nationwide soccer league for kids who are affected by cerebral palsy, stroke or traumatic brain injury. He answered a few questions for us after the clinic.
What’s it like to play on the US National Team and balancing your work as a student at Clemson?
I started playing with the National Team when I was in high school. It was difficult because I had to balance training, traveling, and being a normal high school student. But once I mastered time management, it helped me excel as an athlete and as a student. I am doing the same thing at Clemson.
Why did your family think it was important to start the CP Soccer program in the US?
Two reasons – oftentimes, kids with CP or physical disabilities get pushed out of competitive soccer programs as they get older because sometimes kids with disabilities cannot keep up. There is a big issue in the United States that a lot of disability programs aren’t funded enough, so we wanted to create our own to give kids with cerebral palsy the opportunity to play soccer. That way, these kids can go home at the end of the day and say to their friends at school “I have soccer practice today” and they can be just like everyone else. In other countries, there are soccer leagues for people with disabilities but here in the US, there is nothing of the sorts.
What did you think about the experience today and Sportable’s CP Soccer program?
I loved it. This was very professional and very well done. Every volunteer was fantastic. The coaches were clear. he games were fun. The kids were into it. It was a great time. That is what I love more than anything – seeing the smiles on their faces, even through the masks.
What has soccer meant to you and your life?
Everything. Soccer has been a part of my life for my entire life. Mainly because my dad was a coach. Now being a professional player for the United States, I want it to be a part of my life for as long as I can physically play. And I want it to be everyone’s entire life. It’s a beautiful game. It’s smiles on peoples’ faces and I love it.
Sportable will kick off an eight-week CP Soccer spring season on Sunday, March 7. CP Soccer is open to players of all levels, no previous experience necessary. Sessions will be led by expert coaches, including former U.S. Paralympic National Team player, Nick Creasey, and USSF A Licensed Soccer Director, Joe Farrell.