Strength at All Abilities

Sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From organized soccer and basketball to independent rock climbing and hiking, being active has been a way for me to gain confidence, stay healthy, and become a part of groups who pushed me to be better. I cannot imagine a life where I’m not able to participate in these activities.

Brooks Rehabilitation is making sure no one has to imagine that kind of life. Through their Adaptive Sports and Recreation program, people with disabilities are able to participate in basketball, soccer, rock climbing, rugby, surfing, skydiving, yoga, bowling, cycling, archery, and so much more. As a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with Brooks Adaptive Sports as outside service.

I have helped out with wheelchair basketball practice for the Brooks Ballers, an indoor skydiving event at iFLY, a power wheelchair soccer tournament, a rock climbing event at the Edge Rock Gym, and the annual Challenge Mile. With each event, I am blown away by the resiliency and strength of the participants, and the dedication of the employees, volunteers, and facilities to make these activities possible for all different abilities. No one is turned away and I’ve never heard “This isn’t possible for you” at any event.

Personally, my favorite activity is Wheelchair Basketball practice. The Ballers are made up of different ages and abilities, something that allows them to be competitive at every tournament they attend. From the 15-year old who sinks 3-pointers with ease and maneuvers his chair more gracefully than I thought possible, to the athlete who has been playing since long before I was born and offers guidance and wisdom to the rest of the team, they each bring a different strength to the game. Their practice is formatted like any other basketball practice, with a mix of conditioning, shooting and passing drills,running plays, and scrimmaging. Conditioning consists of sprints up and down the floor, sometimes with a teammate or two holding onto their chair from behind for some added weight. As a volunteer, I help out mostly with the shooting drills, catching rebounds and grabbing stray balls so the athletes can spend more time practicing and less time chasing after a missed shot. Each player is incredibly grateful, even when I throw a pass out of their reach or at their feet.

Brooks Adaptive Sports is doing more than giving people with disabilities the chance to participate in a new activity. They are giving the participants confidence in their abilities, rather than focusing on their disability, and they are creating a community of people who understand the struggles and triumphs of being in a wheelchair or having a prosthetic. I’m lucky to be able to volunteer with this incredible organization.

This blog was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Laura Gilligan

Laura serves at Hubbard House as a Health Educator.