In June of 2020, Chris Finn passed away unexpectedly. Chris was a key member of the BORP community, having coached power soccer with our organization since 2002. He was also a remarkable athlete, mentor, colleague, and friend. In an attempt to honor his memory and capture the immense impact he had on his sport and all the BORP athletes he worked with, we are sharing this brief tribute to Chris and his work.
Chris first learned about BORP after moving to the Bay Area in 2001. He came to watch a power soccer practice and, such was his natural gift for the game that, within two weeks, staff member Jonathan Newman asked Chris to become the BORP power soccer coach.
“He fit in immediately,” says Jonathan. “He had the presence of an athlete and he had a remarkable ability to coach other athletes. Having grown up playing soccer, he knew the game. And he knew what it was to be in a power chair.”
Chris was a gifted player and coach and, in addition to taking BORP’s teams on to experience great success, he also made his mark at a national and international level in the sport. He played a key role in developing the Federation Internationale Power Chair Football Association and helped shape the rules of the developing game.
In 2005, Chris was selected to the USA National Power Soccer team, voted Defensive MVP for the Power Soccer World Invitational, and selected to be the USA representative for the International rules committee. In 2006, he was selected as the head coach of the USA World Cup team and went on to take the team to win in the 2007 final against the heavy favorite, France. In 2011 he was head coach for the USA team again and went on to win a second time.
Says Jonathan Newman, “Chris totally believed in the team. He got them playing together well and he also got them to believe that they weren’t just going to the World Cup, but that they were going to win it.”
There’s no doubt that Chris got results from his players, but everyone who speaks of him talks about his outstanding character. Again and again, people praise him for his kindness, his patience, his positivity, and an attitude that always made everyone feel respected and valued. At BORP, he had a lasting impact on so many people’s lives.
Says power soccer player Ariana Dindzans, who’s been on the BORP Shockers (the team coached by Chris) since 2014, “Chris had a personal impact on every single one of us on the team. I’ve never had such a kind, patient, understanding, relatable role-model. If we made a mistake on court, he would encourage us to learn from it and put a stop to our negativity immediately. Because of that, he really helped me build my sense of confidence and self-worth. He made sure everyone on the team knew they were important and valued. He had such a huge influence on my life.”
Similarly, Julie Fuller, who coaches BORP’s other power soccer team, the Bombers, remembers him as being consistently supportive. “What made him such a good coach,” says Julie, “is that he was always very encouraging. He’d tell me, ‘You know what you’re doing, so trust yourself.’ He never focused on the negative. People with disabilities always hear ‘you can’t do this.’ But Chris was always about “You CAN do this!”
Jonathan Newman echoes these sentiments. “Whenever Chris talked to someone, he made them feel like they were the most important person. And this was particularly meaningful for the athletes at BORP who often don’t get that kind of respect. As a coach, he had a light touch–when he was working with the players, he never yelled and he never showed frustration. And he always had realistic but high expectations of the team. He created an atmosphere where they really thrived.”
In addition to coaching at BORP, Chris made many other important contributions to the community. He was President of the Board of Directors for CRIL (Community Resources for Independent Living) and Vice Chair and Commissioner for the City of Oakland Mayor’s Commission on Persons with Disabilities. And in 2019, he was recognized for his enormous impact on power soccer and adaptive sports when he received the Disabilities Allies Award of Excellence from United Soccer Coaches.
While he left us far too soon, Chris Finn had an outsized impact. All of us at BORP miss him, but are also deeply grateful for all he did for adaptive sports, athletes with disabilities, and the BORP community. A Virtual Celebration of Life Gathering will take place on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. CT (Chris Finn Day in the City of Oakland) to celebrate Chris’s life. Visit his Facebook page for event details. A Zoom link will be updated on his Facebook page in advance of the celebration.