The U.S. Paralympic National Team

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They are a collective that embodies all that is great about football, sport and the human spirit. And last week, the USPNT kicked off their Rio Paralympics campaign with 2-2 draw that saw Virginia Beach’s own Adam Ballou score the equalizer in the game’s dying embers. [WATCH HERE]

When we saw the ball hit the back of the net, we were reminded of what manager Stuart Sharp told us about his team in an interview we conducted via Skype shortly after the team touched down in Brazil: “We will be known by the time we leave this competition, whether we have a medal or not, as the team that never stopped.”

The U.S. Paralympic Team is composed of footballers who have had a stroke, a traumatic brain injury or were born with Cerebral Palsy. It’s seven-a-side played on a modified pitch (roughly 80 yards x 60 yards). Fifty threes teams compete globally in paralympic football, but only the top eight qualify for the Paralympic games. Ranked No. 8, the U.S. achieved qualification, but will be the underdog in every game they play. A role Sharp told us he views as an “opportunity.”

“There’s no U.S. team that should be going to a championship without wanting to leave with a medal around their neck. I told the players that we know how difficult this is, but that’s our primary aim.”

Sharp, a 38-year-old Glaswegian, was hired two years ago as the very first full-time U.S. Paralympic National Team manager. To be honest, we were blown away when we spoke with him. He comes from a place of honesty, candor and warmth for his players that is exceedingly rare, not just in football, but in life.

Asked about the effect this current group of U.S. players has had on him, he told us: “There’s always growth professionally when you work with any group of players over time. But working with this group, there’s also a lot of personal growth that goes on. When you hear these stories, you understand the responsibility that you have as a national team coach for the U.S. You hear my Scottish accent, but from working with these players, it has transformed my passion for the U.S. How can someone like me not give 100 percent for the U.S. after what each one of my players have gone through to get to this stage? And that’s the feeling that fires me on every day to ensure that they have the best platform to do what they want to do. And that drives me as a coach and on a personal level as well.”

U.S. Soccer has done a remarkable job chronicling some of the stories about which Sharp speaks. We urge each and every one of you to watch THESE VIDEO PROFILES of the players.

This article originally appeared in the September 9th issue of our newsletter, The Raven. Subscribe HERE.