Adaptive sports help students with disabilities get active
Ben Martin – Sports Writer
Through the Adaptive Sports and Recreation department, Manager Paul Weiland is trying to showcase what he calls “a different way.”
Weiland, the manager for the adaptive sports and recreation department at the university, has been working with the Connecticut Spokebenders and a newly created team for veterans
, to provide opportunities for wheelchair basketball athletes and students looking for opportunities to volunteer and get involved. Although the department has a connection with a team, that is not the final goal.
Currently, the Spokebenders and the veterans team practice at the university; however, they gave the opportunity to play to athletes in the surrounding area. Being able to provide an opportunity to play for veterans around the New England region is how the veterans team got started.
Over the summer, the adaptive sports and recreation department hosted an all-
“When we were there one of the veterans that was in attendance was from Maine,” Weiland said. “He told me that if I started a team, he would drive five and a half hours to practice.”
So, with that man in mind, the veterans’ team was born, and they now feature players from New Jersey and Philadelphia as well making them a regional team.
Although Weiland and his department have created a veteran’s team and house the Connecticut Spokebenders, that is not the end goal for the department.
“Within three years, I hope that we launch a completely competitive collegiate program,” Weiland said. “We would mirror the athletic department being the 14 university with a collegiate-adaptive wheelchair basketball team.”
Along with the department giving an opportunity to athletes, it gives opportunities to students who are interested in volunteering and gaining job experience.
Most of the volunteers come through the therapeutic recreation and sports management classes because they get exposed to the program through classes, Weiland said. The volunteer experience allows them to help the program and gain class credit for doing so.
Once the volunteers come to the program, Weiland wants them to get the full experience and be able to feel exactly what playing the game is like.
“We will get them in chairs themselves, so they can feel firsthand what some of this is like,” Weiland said.
One of those volunteers was Communication Science and Disorders Major Regina Damis, a sophomore.
“It made me realize how hard it actually is,” Damis said. “It looks easy when you see people playing but when you are actually in the chair you realize how much is being put into the game.”
Damis’ heightened appreciation for the sport after being in the wheelchair was shared by fellow volunteer and Nursing Major Jordan Wilson, a junior.
“You think it would be easier because you are not running anymore, but it’s so much arm work,” Wilson said.
Damis and Wilson are both volunteers for the wheelchair basketball program.
; However, they do not come from the therapeutic recreation or sports management departments , and the program is still giving them job experience.
“With my career, I want to go into speech pathology, also work as a behavioral therapist,” Damis said. “So, working with people who have different disabilities or disorders will always be a part of my field.”
Wilson is getting job experience out of the program too as a nursing major.
“Going into the nursing field, there are so many things that I have the opportunity to do,” Wilson said. “This is one more way I am able to expose myself to it beforehand.”
Wilson added that being able to work with people of different backgrounds is a valuable skill for her.
“Honestly, there is not a major on campus that I can think of that would not benefit from this,” Weiland said. “Everything from business to marketing to news writing all deal with working with this population, so being able to see things firsthand and get feedback from these individuals on a direct one-on-one basis would help any major on campus.”