Jason Sfire could have been done coaching the game he loves. Now he’s about to lead the home team during a landmark event for wheelchair football in Chicago.
Sfire, who coached in the high school ranks for 20 years, fell 30 feet off a ladder onto concrete 22 years ago, shattering his hip, breaking his back in nine places, fracturing both wrists, both collarbones and his jaw and losing nine teeth. He had been doing well, but in 2013, he required back surgery to have four vertebrae fused. It was then that he acquired an MRSA infection in his spine, which led to more than a dozen additional procedures.
In 2017, Sfire’s spine was rebuilt again, but there was already so much damage that he still has three incomplete spinal-cord injuries and battles arachnoiditis, which costs him feeling in his lower extremities.
Despite all of that — and the other responsibilities in his life — when Sfire was asked to coach the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association’s Chicago Bears team, he knew he couldn’t say no.
“I said to my wife, ‘I don’t think I have the bandwidth, but I will not let this thing fail,’ ” said Sfire, who’s also the GLASA board president. “The team, the league and the opportunity it’s providing for adaptive athletes and wheelchair athletes is so great that I can’t let this fail in Chicago.”
This weekend is proof it’s not failing. Sfire and the GLASA Bears will host their first USA Wheelchair Football League home tournament, welcoming six other teams to the College of Lake County in Grayslake. The Bears will play five games over two days as the USAWFL marks its second year of tournament play.
“This is going to put wheelchair football and these athletes on display for the whole city to see,” Sfire said.
Through the team’s relationship with the NFL Bears, who have provided equipment, trademarks and promotional support, Sfire and his players got to attend the first day of training camp. There they met Bears general manager Ryan Poles, and Sfire spoke with coach Matt -Eberflus.
“I just can’t say enough great things about an organization of that size reaching their hand down to a startup organization such as the GLASA Chicago Bears,” said Sfire, who singled out Gustavo Silva, the NFL Bears’ manager of youth football and community programs, for his work. “The way that they have just said, ‘You’re part of our organization, and we want to partner with you,’ is just awesome.”