The Joy of Adaptive Sports

by Rachel Zook

When you walk into my teenager’s room you will see many of the same things you will see in any teenager’s room. Her scrunchies collection grows by the week. Lip gloss, lotion, and books are scattered across her desk. On her walls, you will see medals from a recent triathlon. A baseball trophy and ball sit on her shelf, ballet pictures and dried flowers hang near her bed, and a softball bow is hanging with her bows.

However, these items have been hard sought after for my sweet daughter. Emma was born with many physically challenging factors that make physical activities very hard for her. She cannot play on most teams with friends her age. We have had to seek out adaptive sports to help her succeed.

adaptive sportsAbout Adaptive Sports

At this part some people may be wondering what is adaptive sports? Adaptive sports looks different for each sport and group, but the basic concept is opening sports and physical activities up for people who may not be able to access them traditionally.

Our first real exposure to this type of group was when we joined Catalyst Sports, which is big on indoor rock climbing clinics. They have trained adults who come to help all ages learn how to climb with the support they may need physically to do so. These supports look different for every person based on their physical challenges. Some people use a special hand crank chair to climb to the top of the indoor building, some need side guides to help them find and place their feet on holds, some just need some extra encouragement and guidance on how to use their own strengthen better. The group in our area has helped my daughter gain so much more confidence just from being able to get stronger and climb higher each visit.

From us finding that group, we have been able to find a few other activities though asking other parents what other opportunities they knew about. Each and every one has looked different, but each has brought so much joy and power to my sweet daughter. To see her be able to experience sports like her peers do, to go and say, “Hey, I played softball this weekend, too,” has been a huge boost for her. The smile on her face when we find an adaptive sport is worth the chore of finding her access to these groups. Every child should be able to experience the joy of teamwork even if it looks a little different then some teams. She even completed an adaptive triathlon this summer with two friends as her support team.

How to Find Adaptive Sports

Adaptive sports is a growing field in most areas. Teams and groups are starting at earlier and earlier ages and growing in numbers of options in many cities. Finding these groups can prove to be time consuming and tedious. I would highly suggest asking at local physical therapy groups and children’s hospitals. Honestly, my best groups have come from asking on Facebook. Also, once in a group ask the other parents for more ideas or groups they may have tried out.

My other advice is do not be afraid to try a group even if it is new or starting out. This past spring we joined a brand new adaptive sport baseball team. A local friend saw a need in the community and got a sponsor to allow for a special team to join the local league. They asked local kids and teens volunteer to be buddies and come out to play for an hour with the kids. It was the best experience for all the kids involved. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of smiles, and the best bonding between buddies and kids. My daughter had the most fun hitting and running the bases. She can’t wait till this spring to do it again.

Adaptive Sports Success

The trophies on her wall mean more to me than they ever will to her. To her dad and me, it shows us how the years of physical therapies she went through to walk were so worth every headache. It shows us a side of joy in her we do not see in many other areas of her life. It shows us that with a little adaption she can do anything she wants in this life. I am so thankful for those adults who strike out and see that challenges do not mean NO.

You will never know until you try, and honestly what is the worst that can happen? It doesn’t work for your child and you pull out. Give it a go; you never know how it will impact your child. Adaptive sports are amazing for all involved!!

Author: Rachel Zook • Date: 12/9/2019 • Photo: People’s Association Water-Venture

About the Author

Rachel Zook is a mom to two beautiful children. Emma is 13 and is medically complicated. She loves art, music, and cooking. Taylor is eight and he loves to draw and take marital arts. Rachel spends her time caring for her family, working at the library she loves, and crafting to relax. She and her husband Daniel love to have fun adventures with their kids. 

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