Braidyn Browne gives it his best shot at a play day held at the Prince Rupert Middle School gym to give students an idea of what it is like to play sports as a persons in a wheelchair. . (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Prince Rupert students spend a day in someone else’s chair

Northern Adapted Sports Association visited PRMS and the elementary schools

Students at PRMS and the elementary schools spent some time in a wheelchair to learn more about adaptive sports.

The Northern Adapted Sports Association (NASA), that promotes the participation of people with physical disabilities in sport, came to town earlier this month to give workshops to the Grade 4, 5 and 8s.

Grayson Witze (left) attempts to throw the ball past his opponent River Gerritsen who is speedily approaching his target. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

“We’re trying to give the students an example of an adaptive sport that everyone can play that is inclusive,” Rob Stiles, program co-ordinator for Northern Adapted Sports Association, said.

Last Saturday, after the week-long workshops had ended, a play day was held at the Prince Rupert Middle School gym to give students an idea of what it is like to play sports as a person in a wheelchair.

Adonica Browne steals the ball. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

“Wheelchair basketball as a sport in Canada is completely universally inclusive so we can all play together up to Canada Games level ‑­— able bodied, boys and girls — everyone can play together, not just those with a physical disability,” Stiles said.

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Basketball chairs are specially designed for sports. Wheels care slanted to allow athletes to move and turn around quicker with less friction. A wheel at the back allows for the chair to be safely tipped over and each one can fit an individual’s specific needs. Some chairs can also be adjusted to fit different sports. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

The provincial government and viaSport — an organization that helps create equitable sporting opportunities in B.C., funded the program’s tour to reach as many kids in Northwest B.C. as possible.

“We always get really positive feedback. We tend to find that students who don’t always join in gym class find it really refreshing because suddenly the super athletic kids are not better than them,” Stiles said.

Kids race for the basket ball. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Stiles also found that students on the autism spectrum have been eager to participate, something he was not expecting when the program began.Gym teachers have commented that students with autism normally do not join in gym class because some sports are just too overwhelming, but were pleasantly surprised when their students joined in.

“Even students who don’t join in, because maybe they are scared of a wheelchair which is fine, even sitting on the sides they get to see an adapted sport where everyone joins in and there’s that whole education side along the movement.”

Kids race for the basket ball. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Basketball chairs are specially designed for sports. Wheels are slanted to allow athletes to move and turn around quicker with less friction. A wheel at the back allows for the chair to be safely tipped over, and each one can fit an individual’s needs. Some chairs can also be adjusted to fit different sports.

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“There does seem to be more of a focus on adaptive sports. We aren’t in a perfect place yet but hopefully with programs like this in the schools you get the understanding that people are all individuals and that is not a bad thing. No one has special needs, they all just have needs,” Stiles said about the changing culture and perception of adaptive sports.

Stiles is working to see if there is interest in the region to participate in the B.C. Winter Games, which wheelchair basketball is a part of. He plans to come back to the schools in January to drum up a zone team from Vanderhoof to the west.

The white team is launching the ball up court as the reds close in on them. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

NASA also runs seated volleyball, sledge hockey, para-ice hockey and blind sports.

Stiles first got involved in NASA following a car crash that left his wife injured and needing a wheelchair.

“Since my kids were knee high to a grasshopper they started playing. We’re all the same and we can all be included and that is awesome,” Stiles said.

READ MORE: Canadian wheelchair basketball teams secure spots in Tokyo 2020 Paralympics


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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