Baltimore Sun

Playing for country the dream for Palacios

Md. School for the Blind grad works out for USA blind team

- By Edward Lee

In the first week of June, Jefferson Palacios signed up for a “Mortal Kombat” video game tournament for the July 8-10 weekend.

Then the 2021 Maryland School for the Blind graduate was invited by the United States Associatio­n of Blind Athletes (USABA) to try out on the same weekend for a chance to join the first Blind Soccer National Team. And the decision was simple.

“It’s one of those things where, yeah, I wish [I could have played] because I know I would get pretty far in the tournament, but at the same time, the biggest thing is my dream of representi­ng the country,” he said. “That’s more important.”

So recently, Palacios, now majoring in recording arts at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, joined 11 other players from around the country at what was described as an “identifica­tion camp” in Rock Hill, South Carolina, organized by the USABA in conjunctio­n with the Charlotte Independen­ce Soccer Club. Over the span of three days, the 12 players worked on drills, participat­ed in scrimmages and showed off their skills before three coaches in hopes of being named in October to the national team that is scheduled to make its internatio­nal debut in December at the Internatio­nal Blind Sports Federation’s Central American Championsh­ips in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Philip “Fil” Wilkinson, one of those three coaches and the director of community engagement for the Charlotte Independen­ce, said Palacios made a favorable impression with him and his colleagues.

“He would be — at this moment in time — be very close to making the team, in my opinion,” Wilkinson said. “He obviously needs a little bit of work, but from the two camps that I’ve attended, he is definitely up there as a strong candidate for one of those 10 spots. He’s very close.”

Palacios’ performanc­e did not surprise Maryland School for the Blind soccer coach Timothy Taylor, who said he has been encouragin­g Palacios to try out for the national team.

“I’ve been telling him, ‘This is an opportunit­y for you, you’re a very skilled athlete, and this is something that you should pursue,’ ” Taylor said. “So I definitely pushed him, but as a young adult, he’s got to make his own choices. But I’m very happy that he is doing this, and I am very pleased to hear that he is doing his best to try to make the team.”

Palacios’ opportunit­y is within his grasp despite eyesight problems that began at birth. He said he was born a few days premature with total blindness in his left eye.

Because of the premature nature of his birth, Palacios said he was placed in an incubator where prolonged exposure to oxygen

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States