In the 1980s, I considered myself to be one of the luckiest soccer players in the U.S. In 1982, I joined the Mesa Soccer Club, where I played for one the top teams in the nation. More importantly, my father and I learned everything we could from the Kuntz family. Dr. Daniel Kuntz, the Socrates of Arizona, founded MSC in the early 1970s. He was a former professional who played in Germany and Mexico. He taught Arizona how to play soccer. I actually learned soccer from his kids, particularly Dan and George Kuntz. They are what every soccer coach should strive to be: mentors who helped us to develop a passion for the game. I further learned about soccer from Mike Rabasca and Greg Vanney, when my brother played for their club. My father and I, in fact, developed several of their ‘80s and ‘81s before they joined Arizona’s original Hammers.
When I was 11 years old, I became paralyzed in a go-cart accident. My first trip out of the hospital was to watch the President’s Cup, which my team won. I took my trophy back to my room in rehab. My second was to watch my team lose to Cisco in the State Cup final at Grand Canyon College (Now GCU). I went on to become one the fastest wheelchair sprinters in the 1990s, setting over 40+ national junior records (100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, and shot put), 20+ American records (100m, 200m, 800m, 4x100m relay, and 4x400), two world records and two world championships. I was the first paraplegic to break 15 seconds in the 100m (14.78). I retired with the world record, and held it for 8 years.
When I had my own kids, I saw that soccer had changed. Only the rich kids in the United States could now get access to elite training. I decided to make as much information available to the kids in my community for free.
My own kids were extremely lucky to find accomplished mentors themselves. Alex Hernandez, hired by Rabasca to be a local DoC in Arizona, taught Brendan extremely advanced techniques beginning when he was 8 years old. We then met Schellas Hyndman and the staff at GCU soccer camps. I saw the same qualities in him that I saw in the Kuntz family. My kids worship Coach Hyndman as much as my friends and I worshiped the Kuntz family. My kids have also learned futsal under Diego Walsh, who played at SMU and then professionally for several years. He has also been amazing for my kids’ development.
Troy Davis, my longtime training partner and I used to make videos like this when we were young wheelchair racers trying to catch up to our heroes, Craig Blanchette, the first wheelchair racer to appear in a Nike commercial, and Jim Knaub, whose flashy style caught the eye of MTV producers. I trained quite a bit in Eugene with Craig and our coach, Kevin Hansen, the founder of our team, World Wheelchair Sports. He was an X Games type skier before the X Games, breaking his neck attempting a triple backflip. When I returned home, I would show Troy everything that I learned in Eugene. We would then film ourselves and compare our form to the ESPN and MTV videos of Craig and Jim.
That attention to detail helped us to become the top sprinters in the U.S. In 1998, we became the first disabled athletes to receive athletic scholarships at the University of Arizona. We had dreamed of forming an alternative to the University of Illinois in our home state for a long time. It turned out to be a big step in the growth of wheelchair sports because we attracted some of the nation's top athletes.
When Brendan was 4, we made some videos to show him that he was actually pretty skilled. We filmed him and showed him the videos of him after showing him videos of professionals. He was VERY hard on himself and VERY determined to become a good player. Showing him video of himself really helped his confidence. Watching videos of professionals also helped him to understand moves that I could no longer demonstrate because of my disability. My brother was really impressed with Brendan’s training and asked us to upload a couple of his videos to YouTube. We named the channel and videos after Brendan's internet heroes, Madin (Algeria) and Hassan Ayari (Canada, U.S., Tunisia). Hassan's dad was a fellow Paralympian who was friends with several of my wheelchair racing friends. My brother used a couple of the videos to inspire his U12 girls at Legacy to train harder.
The videos turned out to be a lot more popular than we expected.
Julian made his first video at age 3. Our family is really happy that we were able to provide some guidance to kids and to parents who are trying to find ways to develop their own passion for the game.
The song is "Eyes on You" by Network 415.