Tracy Danzey (above left) poses with teammates before the game in Poland.
Shepherdstown resident Tracy Danzey recently competed with the US Women’s Amputee Soccer Team, as part of the Amp Futbol Cup tournament held in Warsaw, Poland. Like many of her teammates, her path to Poland has been quite a journey.
Danzey was a competitive athlete in high school, swimming and running track. Although she did not compete in organized sports while she studied nursing at Shepherd University, she kept up an active lifestyle with hiking and kayaking, even after she started her first job, working in intensive care at City Hospital in Martinsburg. She still remembers vividly the day she was out running and her hip snapped. “I’m 25. This is not normal.” she recalled thinking. The cancer diagnosis soon followed.
“After the first 4 rounds of chemo, I just wanted the cancer out of my body. I wasn’t afraid of the amputation, I just wanted this thing that had invaded me to be gone.” Twelve more rounds of chemo followed the surgery to remove her leg and part of her pelvis. Afterwards, Danzey recalls encountering fear and doubt — not from herself so much as from everyone around her, worried about what she couldn’t do or how she might get hurt. “I asked the doctors if I could speak with anyone who was living a functional life after this type of surgery. They couldn’t tell me of anyone.”
“At the time, there was no community for this specific disability, but there was this new thing called Facebook, so I started a group online. That was 15 years ago and it’s still going strong. We focused on looking for life solutions — how to do everyday tasks.” Danzey noted that it’s not so much about how to get around on one leg, but “with two crutches, you don’t have any hands free to do things.”
The organizing body for this sport is the World Amputee Football Federation (WAFF). They are looking to expand the global participation in amputee football (soccer) and one of their goals is to get it included in the Paralympics by 2032. Danzey explained “WAFF recruited one of the younger members of our group to start an American women’s team and she in turn convinced the rest of us that we could do this. I didn’t realize how serious we would all end up being about it, and I didn’t expect to love it this much. But it’s really got me thinking about my health, how I can strengthen myself.”
Danzey talked about what it was like to line up on the field in Warsaw. “When I heard our anthem being played, it was motivating. I felt I was representing not just me, I was representing America.” Once we started playing, my mind was focused on my mark, setting up to push the other team away from our goal, realizing I could do this. If you enjoy competing, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do it on a level playing field. I haven’t had that feeling since my disability.”
“That’s why adaptive sports are important…. It’s so much better than a support group. You get to show up with people who are already finding solutions, who are moving forward.”
Photo Credit (both images): @NigelDPresentsBy Staff Contributor