Adapted Sports Night offers spin on sports

Sara Schleede

Rather than the scuff of sneakers and the swish of basketballs sinking into nets, the basketball court at the Recreational Sports Center was alive with beeps, buzzer drones and the whir of wheelchairs against hardwood on Tuesday night.

Students and Austin-based athletes gathered for the third annual Adapted Sports Night, an open house for students with or without disabilities to try various sports such as sled hockey, rugby and wheelchair basketball.

“Sports can be (an) equalizer,” said Emily Shryock, assistant director of Services for Students with Disabilities. “Throw someone in a wheelchair … and it doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not. You’re on that equal playing field in terms of being able to enjoy the
sport together.”

Adapted Sports Night, hosted as part of Disability Awareness Month, was sponsored by Services for Students with Disabilities, Student Government and Recreational Sports. Local athletes taught students how to adapt their favorite sports to accommodate different disabilities.

The Austin Blackhawks, a baseball team for the visually impaired, have attended Adapted Sports Night since its inception in 2015.

“A lot of people think that blind people sit at home and don’t do anything, but everybody on the team is a working professional,” designated hitter Steve Puryear said.

Puryear has been playing beep baseball — a form of baseball adapted for visually impaired players that uses a modified, beeping softball — for three years and said it is just as active as regular baseball. The only struggle is learning to develop skills differently over time.

“Anytime we tell anybody we play baseball, they ask, ‘How does that work?’” Puryear said. “They think of it from their perspective.”

Psychology senior Emily Hinds attended the event after learning about it in her psychology class, Individual Differences, which focuses on adapting classrooms and workplaces to accommodate disabilities.

“We’ve been learning more about learning, but this is fun stuff,” Hinds said. “(Having a disability) doesn’t eliminate fun.”

Shryock said Adapted Sports Night is important because it shows what the disabled community is capable of.

“People often have limitations for what they think people with disabilities can do, and I want them to leave with more of an understanding of what’s possible for somebody with a disability,” Shryock said.