Sophomore Soccer Player Attends U.S. Paralympic National Team Training

By Brooklyn Dance
Elijah Ridley, sophomore and a defender on the Trevecca soccer team, never expected for someone from the U.S Paralympic National Team to contact him.  He still isn’t exactly sure how they found them, but he is glad they did.    
 
Ridley received a Facebook message from the captain of the U.S. Paralympic National Team, asking him about his condition and asking if Ridley would be interested in talking to the coach or the team trainer. 
 
After Ridley expressed interest to the team captain, the team’s coordinator emailed Ridley asking if he would be willing to come to a training camp, Nov. 30 through Dec. 6 in Tampa, FL. 
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Ridley agreed, and the team flew him down to Florida- all expenses paid.  He joined 17 other Paralympic players from around the country, eight of which were on the Paralympic team that played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
 
“We trained twice a day, and played a full game on Sunday,” Ridley said.  “I started and played the full game- it was a great experience.”
 
Ridley has a condition called shoulder dystocia, also known as Erb’s Palsy. 
 
“Basically, when I was born, my arm got rapped up in the umbilical cord, which pulled all the nerves in my shoulder, neck and arm,” Ridley said.  “When I was little, I couldn’t feel anything in my arm, so I always held it up funny, which eventually caused my elbow to lock.”
 
Ridley said that some of the other Paralympic players had cerebral palsy, some had strokes growing up, and a few were military veterans. 
 
Though Ridley does not officially know if he has made the team, he has high hopes. 
 
“Everyone invited out makes the training squad unless they’re just not up to par” Ridley said.  “When it comes time for international competition, coach names 14 players to take.” 
 
Ridley says he knows he is on the training squad, and feels good enough to make the international squad. 
 
Ridley is grateful for the opportunity and experience, since he has never played Paralympic soccer before.
 
“Going down there helped me learn an entire new aspect of the game, because Paralympic soccer is different than regular soccer. It’s seven versus seven, instead of 11 versus 11,” Ridley said.  “I was able to get coaching from professional coaches who have seen the game at an international level, and a whole different perspective of teaching the game helped me grow as a player.” 
 
Danny Leavy, head coach of the men’s team, said he and the rest of the team were excited to see Ridley’s journey.
 
“All of the guys thought it was really incredible, [to see] Elijah get honored like that,” Leavy said.
 
Leavy said Ridley has developed a lot this year as a player. 
 
“Last year he played in one game, and this year he started in a string of six games,” Leavy said.  “It’s a big leap for a player to make, and it’s really encouraging to see how much he has progressed.”
 
Although it is hard to see where the experience will take Ridley, Leavy is excited for the future. 
 
“He could be overseas playing in international competition next year- it would be amazing to see a Trevecca soccer player overseas,” Leavy said. 
 
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