Pushing past physical limitations can be a crucial part of success for athletes. For athletes of disability-adapted sports, such as wheelchair basketball or paratriathlons, overcoming physical limitations can be everything.
Some of these athletes from various adapted sports gathered in Gregory Gym Tuesday to share their experiences with students for UT’s first Adapted Sports Night. The event was sponsored by Services for Students with Disabilities, Student Government and Recreational Sports to raise awareness for adapted sports on campus and encourage students with disabilities to learn about opportunities to participate in sports.
“A lot of these students never think that they could play some of these sports sometimes, and we can show them that it’s possible,” said Emily Shryock, the assistant director of Services for Students with Disabilities. “We also just wanted to gage interest of the students with disabilities and see if these are options that they’d like to have at UT.”
Adapted Sports Night featured a wide range of sports including wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis and sled hockey. Shryock, an athlete with a disability, said the representation of many adapted sports was important.
“We’ve got a variety, from sports that use power chairs to people with more upper body ability, so that anyone that comes can plug in to what they want and be able to find something that works for them,” Shryock said.
Business sophomore Shalom Hernandez attended the event because of her love of sports. Although she had played basketball and tennis with the use of her walker in the past, playing organized adapted sports was still a new experience.
“I wanted to come see how it is, mostly because I’ve never experienced playing sports with other people with disabilities,” Hernandez said.
The local athletes in attendance answered questions, showed off their sporting equipment and played pick-up games with students. The event allowed participation in adapted sports for both students with and without disabilities — something Donald Egan, the agency director of Students with Disabilities within Student Government, said is important to achieve.
“It would be great to have all people involved, even those without disabilities,” Egan said. “It can be a touchy subject for some.”
Egan believes that having confidence can be a problem for students with disabilities at UT and that playing sports can help build that confidence.
Shryock’s participation in wheelchair rugby, paratriathlons and wheelchair tennis allowed her to meet many of the athletes that attended Adapted Sport Night. She said she hopes the athletes’ experiences encourage students to find their own growth in sports.
“Sports made me more independent and gave me experiences that I never thought that I could do,” Shryock said.