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The Ingenuity of Adaptive Sports

Written by Tim Hofstaetter

I think many of us have interacted with sports at some point in our life. Many people enjoy sports so much that they make it part of their identity. But what happens if we are not able to play sports like we want to? There are many reasons we could not be able to participate in sports in the way they were “designed.” Sports can help bring people together in community, give people an outlet for both physical and mental distress, and give people a form of enjoyment. When you aren’t able to play and you lose these factors associated with sports, it can be stressful. This is a campus filled with student athletes. About a third of students at Roanoke College are student athletes. Imagine how it would feel for about 500 or more students to not be able to compete in something that is integral to their identity. 

There is some debate as to when adaptive sports really started, but in 1948 doctors decided that people with disabilities should be able to enjoy sports the same as the non-disabled. They hosted wheelchair games of many sorts and since this day the wildfire of adaptive sports began to spread. There are now about 70 different adaptive sports in total ranging from bobsledding and carriage driving to basketball and baseball. Roanoke College and the surrounding area has seen this adaptive sports movement. In our surrounding area the most supportive area so far has been the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. They both have an adaptive tennis wheelchair team. So far, these two colleges are the only colleges in Virginia with adaptive sports teams, hopefully this trend can continue. 

Roanoke College has also been an advocate for adaptive sports, Toy Like Me is an on-campus club that hosts a wheelchair basketball tournament every year. Along with Toy Like Me we have MAPLE’S Kid which came out of a project completed by Julia Bassett. MAPLE’S stands for Multiple Adaptive Play Experiences in Sports, and this is supported by our own President Frank Shushok. MAPLE’S Kids is a program held every Saturday on campus where we help local kids play different adaptive sports in the Bast Gym or other area on campus. For example, they played tennis on the courts behind the Hawthorne parking lot. Please feel free to come help support MAPLE’S Kids every week from 9am-11am on Saturdays. This week we will be helping Toy Like Me modify toys!

Adaptive sports are so important in our society. They should be discussed more because so often we see people with disabilities being pushed off to the side. Promoting adaptive sports puts people with disabilities in the spotlight they deserve. Additionally, physical exercise for humans is super important and beneficial. It is recommended to get around 20-30 minutes of exercise every day. Often people with disabilities don’t have that opportunity so having more adaptive sports gives that opportunity for the physical exercise humans need so much.