The sound of squeaking rubber is nothing extraordinary, but the smell of it burning was unexpected in the foyer of the Abrams Physical Fitness Center.
But, throw two wheelchair basketball teams onto a court and a ball to fight over, and the scent of scorched rubber then becomes a by-product, a lingering reminder that being disabled shouldn’t slow anyone down.
“I’m honored when they bring us out for this showcase because it gives the kids an opportunity to see that even though we’re disabled, we can still get out here and compete hard. We can still do things, try to be as normal as possible,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class Charles Armstead, a member of the Harker Heights Hustlers wheelchair basketball team that participated in the event.
Fort Hood’s Child, Youth and School Services hosted the fourth annual U.S. Paralympics Adaptive Experience on Friday at Abrams.
Following a sanctioned game between the Hustlers and members of the University of Texas-Arlington Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team, children and their families were invited to drive a hand-cycle and participate in wheelchair tennis, among other activities.
“The goal of it is to bring awareness to the world of U.S. Paralympics and adaptive sports and let the community know that there are adaptive sports programs here in this local community,” said Kristine Fernandez, the Youth Sports and Fitness director for CYSS.
“We’ve been able to bring various different types of adaptive sports to the event for the clinics and the youth are able to participate in that,” she said. “Today, one of the new ones (events) that we’re doing is the archery demo and we’re doing a bocce, so the kids are going to be able to participate in that.”
The day started with a wheelchair basketball clinic, hosted by UTA head coach Doug Garner, and a meet-and-greet that allowed children and their families to ask Movin’ Mavs players about overcoming adversities, living with a disability and continuing to play sports.
“Not only do they (the children) look up to them, but they’re just in awe with them,” Fernandez said. “To see the athletes and see them on that type of level and, even though they’re overcoming what they’ve had to go through, they’re still being able to compete at that level.”
Juan Soto, a senior on the university’s wheelchair basketball team, participated in the event for the first time. While the Movin’ Mavs’ five-person team put on a clinic after the clinic, handily beating the Hustlers in the game of two 20-minute halves, Soto said the experience was good just to expose a new generation to the game.
Even the older guys on the Hustlers team.
“They just haven’t been playing long enough,” Soto said. “Just teaching them a few pointers that would seem obvious to some that have been doing it for a while. Some people that are fresh to the game, it might a be total, new concept to them.
“It’s just all in an attempt to make the sport grow and get better,” he added. “I’m not going to be able to play forever, so 10 to 20 years down the line, I want the sport to be that much better than when I left it.”
Armstead added that the event is a good way of showing their adaptive sports programs within this community. “There is a community team. So, if anybody wants to come play, they can come play, or learn the game — it’s fun,” Armstead said. “You don’t have to be disabled to learn how to play.”