Caitlin and I recently went to an adaptive sports event held at Springfield College to learn more about youth programming in our area for athletes of all abilities. Because we love to play, we were thrilled when we actually got to participate in all of the sporting events and weren’t just passive observers.
First, Caitlin tried out sled hockey, a program hosted locally by the Center for Human Development. Since we were in a gymnasium, Caitlin didn’t get to try out her skills on the ice. However, she did get to strap on a sled and take shots at the makeshift goal. After finding her balance and figuring out the angle on her shot, she was able to flick the puck with some force. She loved it so much that she asked the mentor players about joining a team. As an able-bodied athlete who has a learned a lot about adaptive sports and believes strongly in their inclusive philosophy, Caitlin knows that according to Disabled Sports USA, “Sled hockey is played by a wide range of players with a variety of mobility limitations: amputees, spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, along with anyone who has a permanent disability that limits participation in stand up hockey. In addition, with the exception of the highest level of competition, non-disabled players are encouraged to participate.”
Next, we both tried wheelchair basketball with Coach Paul Weiland from Chapter 126 in Bristol, CT. He was fantastic! He started us off with pushing drills up and down the court. When he noticed my obvious lack of pushing skills, he offered a few tips on pushing evenly on the wheels along with some words of encouragement. Soon, I was making my way up and down the court in a straight line, but far behind Caitlin. He then increased the challenge by having us practice stopping, turning, and even dribbling while pushing. The final drill was putting it all together to do lay-ups. I was horrible at lays-up, but I did make two shots after I got a few more tips from Coach Paul. But, my all-time favorite new trick was scooping up a loose ball. Here’s what you do: get pushing, roll alongside the ball, hold the ball against the rim of the wheel, keep moving forward, and let the ball rotated right up to your waist. So cool! Check out this video of a young athlete demonstrating how to pick up a loose ball.
To end the drills, Coach Paul taught us a few defensive moves, and then we got to play a game. Caitlin and I were on opposite teams for the game which gave her lots of opportunity to smash into me with her chair and repeatedly block any move I tried to make. In the end, my hands burned, my shoulders ached and I was soaked in sweat. As you can see, we had a blast! The best moment of the day was when Caitlin spun in her chair and said, “Mom, I prefer wheelchair basketball over the rec ball that I play. This is so much harder, and you have to think a lot more.”
I am so grateful for the sports journey that we are on and I want to thank Springfield College, Center for Human Development, and Coach Paul from Chapter 126 for a fun and inspiring day. You taught us to always believe in the possible!
Go Team Possible!
Jen & Caitlin
P. S. For more resources on adaptive sports programming, check out the Team Possible Resources. Have fun and get playing!