Monday, August 16, 2010

Wheelchair Basketball at Basketball Hall Of Fame (

Wheelchair basketball in Springfield at Hall of Fame on August 9th

  • August 14th, 2010 9:38 pm
Between 40 and 60 people with disabilities (PWD) as those without attended A Celebration of Wheelchair Basketball, held today as part of the annual Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Week. The event was held at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. US Paralympic basketball was represented by Jeremy Lade, Alana Nicols, Matt Lesperance, Paul Schulte, Jeff Glasbrenner, and Carlee Hoffman.
They played 2 several short 3 on 3 games, as well as a shortened standard game of 5 players per side against members of the Connecticut Spokebenders. They national team won 20-8. However, Kelly Lavorie, didn’t seem to mind. Ms. Lavorit said playing against the national team was “incredible”. She’s been playing basketball for the past 33 years and has played in a wheelchair for the last six.
Western Mass was well represented at the event because it was in Springfield. Brian Ede, a local athlete of some renown came to the event. Brian plays “more wheelchair soccer” than basketball. This past year he also returned to playing competitive hockey.
Twelve-year-old Emma Minor who is a veteran of many Disability Resource Program events came to the clinic in spite of being one of the few power chair users. Emma spent a fair amount of time receiving somewhat individualized coaching from national team member Alana Nichols who said it was important to focus on the things Emma could do such as coordinating the way she wants the ball to roll off her chair rather than all the things she was not able to do. When Emma was asked why she came, she said “I thought this was a wonderful opportunity to meet them.”
Ason Harris of Springfield also participated in the event. In most ways Ason is a typical 14-year-old boy. He loves to play basketball and hockey outside with friends and teammates and football at home. He says football is his favorite sport, but when asked to choose between basketball and hockey for second favorite, he smiled and replied “I’m going to have to go 50/50 on that.” Anyone who says teenage boys in wheelchairs are not All-American never met Ason.
Many disability rights activists don’t believe in the whole casting one person as representative of the disability community as a whole. However, if one is going to do that, the six members so that national team who came to Springfield would be wonderful candidates.
Paul Schulte of Bradenton, Florida is both an international wheelchair basketball star who plays for the wheelchair version of the Dallas Mavericks and have another job as a mechanical engineer. Additionally, he and his wife just recently had a son named Brady who is now five months old.
Jeff Glasbrenner from Little Rock, Arkansas lost his legs in a farming accident thirty years ago. In addition to being a paralympian in wheelchair basketball, he competes in triathlons where he completes the exact same course as able-bodied athletes using two separate sets of prostheses—one for swimming and one for biking. Jeff is married with two children. As 2010 is the thirtieth anniversary of his accident which happened when he was eight, he plans to complete eight Ironman triathlons to “celebrate” the occasion.
Alana Nichols is the first woman ever to win Paralympic gold in both winter and summer games. In 208, she competed with the U.S. women in wheelchair basketball bringing home a gold medal. In 2010, she competed in Alpine skiing and won a gold medal there as well. Alana was very physically active before she became disabled at the age of seventeen in a snowboarding accident. After her accident, she had a hard time adjusting to life in a wheelchair, but discovering wheelchair basketball, she says joyfully, “gave me the will to live again.” Even though Alana’s life is, at the moment, “100% about sports,” she has her master’s degree in kinesiology and hopes to someday use her education to work with individuals with disabilities internationally.
Carlee Hoffman from Michigan lost her legs at the age of three due to a lawnmower accident. After playing in the exhibition in Springfield, Carlee got a plane a few days later headed for Israel. There, she would be doing work as an intern with the U.N. Apparently, she’s a pretty good volley player too. She qualified for the 2004 U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting volleyball team. She declined the offer and instead took a position on the Women’s Paralympic basketball team. Twenty-four–year-old Carlee is master’s candidate in international public service at DePaul University. Carlee doesn’t wear her prosthesis to play basketball because it adds weight to her chair.
The last Paralympic player who was in Springfield was Matthew Lesperance, who competed in only one Paralympics. Despite reports about China not being very accessible to wheelchair users, according to Matt, it was pretty accessible. He believes in the value of sport or some group activity for everyone. “Everybody overcomes something.” At first, he was very frustrated because he was immediately not good at basketball, but he stuck with it and ended up in Beijing representing the U.S.
One thing that was repeatedly stressed during the clinic and during the interview was that the Paralympics are not the Special Olympics. The Paralympics are essentially the same as the regular Olympics. It requires countless hours of training and no one is guaranteed a medal. At the Special Olympics, every athlete who participates gets a medal of some kind, although first, second, and third and still are rewarded traditionally.
Every young person dreams of going to the Olympics. PWDs are no different. On Monday, some young people actually got to meet their heroes and unlike many Hollywood actors or other professional athletes, these heroes delivered with a smile. They, apparently, accept the role of model.

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