Adaptive sports event opens new perspective

Jacob WaringOnline Editor

At the Introduction to Adaptive Sports event, which was sponsored by the department of recreation, tourism, and sports management, students could be seen playing goal ball or wheelchair basketball in the Pelz Gymnasium on Thursday, Aug. 29.

Goal ball had students wearing blindfolds, mimicking those who have visual impairments, passing the ball to group members who stomped their feet to indicate they were ready for the pass. They then must catch the ball, which was a challenge due to their lack of sight.

Wheelchair basketball was played like regular basketball, with the difference being that students must use a wheelchair while participating. Regulation rules for basketball were still in effect, but players were allowed two pushes before every dribble of the ball.

Watching on the sideline was junior Jeanne Moore, a recreation therapy major who has been in a wheelchair nearly all her life. She said she has a birth defect called spina bifida, which causes the spine and spinal cord to not properly form.

“Your spine doesn’t close properly in the wound. You’re born basically- they have ways to repair it now, but that was almost forty- seven years ago- with a hole in my back,” she said.

Moore was not participating because she said, “I’m not 20 anymore, but I like to at least watch, it’s fun to watch.”

Moore said she thought the students playing wheelchair basketball were doing well navigating in the wheelchairs.

“I think they’re doing pretty good,” Moore said. “I was watching some of them, and they’re doing good at not leaping up and getting out of the chair instinctively.”

She said she was happy to see adapted sports being played at Southern, and she hopes the university continues to allow it to grow.

One of the students who participated was sophomore Mike Mozzicato, a sport management major. It was his first time playing any sort of adaptive sports, and he said he found it engaging.

“I think it’s fun. It’s a little confusing at first, but I feel it’s fun to do and learn it,” Mozzicato said.

Aside from the enjoyment he found while playing the game, Mozzicato said he gained a newfound respect for athletes who participate in the sport at a high level of play.

“[The wheelchair is] definitely very hard to move in. Doing this everyday must be very hard. So, it definitely gives me a lot of respect for people who move like this in real life,” he said.

As an associate professor in the department of recreation, tourism and sport management, Michael Dodge teaches across all disciplines of sports. At the event, he presented the drills of wheelchair basketball and demonstrated some techniques to help students get used to utilizing the wheelchairs.

Dodge said he coached football for 30 years at Southern where he worked with high-level, elite scholarship athletes. However, when he retired from coaching and transitioned into the department he now resides in, he found a passion for adapted sports.

“[Adapted sports] made me push beyond my realm of expertise in the athletic world–actually have to begin to understand what it’s like to modify the techniques for those athletes who did have difference in ability,” he said.

Dodge said he ultimately gained a total respect for the athletes functioning at a level of athleticism that goes with playing adaptive sports.

Mary Jo Archambault, associate professor within the department of recreation and leisure, said her intention for the event was to expose students to adaptive sports. According to her, a lot of students do not know the sport even exists.

She also said that it is a chance to show that the sport is not as easy as it appears at a glance.

“The athletes that are playing make it look really easy,” said Archambault.
“It is not until they get to the chair themselves do students have that realization that it’s very hard, takes a lot of skills and be in great physical shape.”

“I feel very fortunate that Southern, as a whole, is very supportive of adaptive sports. They helped to fund the 12 sport wheelchairs, which is great,” Archambault continued. “I just feel like that this is something that is up-and-coming in Connecticut and that the more the people are aware of it, then the more people will support it.”

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