For the fifth year in a row, Fort Hood hosted the Paralympic Experience.
“Today’s event is all about bringing awareness to adaptive sports in the area,” said Kristine Fernandez, director of youth sports and fitness for Child Youth and School Services.
Held June 20 at Montague Youth Center, children were given the opportunity to test out adapted versions of basketball, volleyball, rock climbing, cycling and tennis. Two wheelchair basketball teams, the Harker Heights Hustlers and the University of Texas at Arlington’s Movin’ Mavs, assisted kids with the adapted equipment and techniques.
“I enjoy the part where the kids get to interact with the athletes one on one,” Fernandez said. “The athletes really have a way of connecting to the kids and talking to them.”
Doug Garner, coach of the Movin’ Mavs, has participated in the event every year. “Anytime you can expose a young person to a person with a disability, they realize they’re a normal person,” he said.
This helps children learn not to be afraid or confused when they see someone with a disability in public, Garner said, adding he got into adaptive sports after seeing it change the life of his disabled son.
“It gave him a life,” he said. “It’s neat they put (programs) like this together.”
For the Sterling family, their father, Staff Sgt. Richard Sterling, is playing with the Heights Hustlers as he heals from reconstructive ankle surgery.
“It’s harder to shoot hoops because your smaller in a wheelchair,” 11-year-old Kayla Sterling said she learned from her father. After playing in a game against the Movin’ Mavs, her father helped her try her hand at sports in a wheelchair.
Participating in adaptive sports, such as wheelchair basketball and hand-cycling, has helped the Warrior Transition Brigade soldier recover, said his wife Kitsi Sterling.
“It’s good for him. It’s good therapy,” she said. “It’s also good for (the kids) to support things that are helping their dad get better.”
Sterling said having her three children watch their dad and the other athletes enjoy sports despite physical challenges is a great life lesson.
“If something happens, you can still have fun in life and do normal activities,” she said.
While the kids are learning and trying new things, Garner said seeing the Mavs play is also great for the veterans on the Hustlers.
“A lot of times they really haven’t been exposed to a really competitive level of (adaptive) sports,” he said. Seeing it motivates them to reach for that next level.”