Published Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Sport is a vital part of life. There is no society in the world that does not participate in sport. Children learn about teamwork and the fact that you don’t always win while playing sports. Athletes learn to reach go beyond their limitations to reach their potential while competing. Adults fondly look back and relive days of sport glory. Some people switch from participant to spectator later in life but no matter the role there are very few people who do not have sport in their life in some capacity.
This week from July 22-26 Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows is hosting the 2009 BC Disability Games. The BC Disability Games is a five day celebration of sport and athleticism. It is also an important way for people to learn about adaptive sports and to see adaptive sports, first hand, in motion.
Adaptive sport programs have a long and varied history. The first documented adaptive sport program was in 1840 in Boston for a school of students with visual impairments. The first well known adaptive sports program came after World War II when wheelchair basketball was created as a rehabilitation tool for soldiers and civilians who acquired disabilities through the war. The BC Disability Games started in 1968 and while they have gone through several name changes the core value of “abilities in action” has stayed the same. As the years have progressed, and as awareness about disabilities has widened, adaptive sports are beginning to come out of the shadows, partly due to events like the BC Disability Games.
While there are more adaptive sport programs now than ever before only 3% of people with disabilities are involved in sport. Many people with disabilities are unaware of the options and it is only through events like the BC Disability Games that they are given opportunity to learn about the possibility of sport in their life. One athlete spoke of her experience as someone who was born with a disability, watching sports from the sidelines at school and wishing that she could become involved in sports. For another athlete it was sports that put him into a wheelchair and he thought his athletic days were over because of the disability. It is by shining a spotlight on adaptive sports and the athletes who participate in them that awareness dawns in others and they ask themselves “could I do that?” And as more people ask themselves, “could I do that” or “how could I adapt this sport” people with disabilities realize that sport need never be something they only wish to do.
The stories of the athletes involved in the BC Disability Games are as varied as any multi-sport event. There are athletes who play at recreational levels and this will be their only experience competing outside of their community. There are athletes that are on their way through the ranks and they hope to travel around the world competing against the best in the world in years to come. There are athletes who have only just begun to hear about adaptive sports and who wanted to try it out for the first time. For some sport is purely a social event, for others it is serious competition, and for others still it is a way for them to better themself. Everybody gets something different out of their sport but they all understand that the opportunity to play a sport is a right that everyone should have.
All sports are free to watch. For more information about the 2009 B.C. Disability Games and the sports involved, or for a schedule of the sports and special events visit www.disabilitygames2009.ca