Engaging Sport With Disability

Climbing twisted tangles of leafless trees, the sun elongating days will soon awaken the Earth to another cycle of green. Nothing like the feeling of penetrating rays, cold tends to aggravate the area of my neck where my vertebrae are fused by plate; so I am always glad to see telltale signs of coming warmth. Outside northwesterly winds prevent temperatures from rising above freezing. This should be one of the last chills before final thawing. Soon it will be time to stay outdoors, anticipate long days of comfortable temperature, short nights.

During winter I'm like a reptile seeking heat, a window to court sun, ease the shakes and pain of achy joints and atrophied muscles. I hibernate winters usually, limiting the amount of unnecessary trips into the cold, staying inside doing activities that I won't want to do during months of warm sunshine. Because I know I am limited in how long I can sit-up, I try to use the hours in chair for activity that I could not do from my laptop or bed and if the sun is out, it's outside.

I have been watching the Winter Olympics unfolding in Salt Lake City, Utah. 17 days of global sport and community as Nation's rally their best athletes to game in competition with the World's elite. For a time the world unites focus to honor sport, cheering on home-town favorites striving for glory. All training pays off here; years of pushing, driving to achieve better times, longer distances, and quicker moves. Persistence and discipline has allowed them to make it this far and finally be one of the worlds best in limelight for excellence.

For an athlete, the Olympics are the culminating moment of an entire career. Seeing others achieve life long dreams, moments of victory, this is what the Olympics and sport are about. We are inspired, wanting to get better in the things that we do ourselves. Chance for Gold or just participation in the games challenges athletes all over the world to challenge themselves. Though most will never make it to that pinnacle, knowing that others have and can, make what is usually unknown territory at least familiar. Someone somewhere pushed it that far and well if I keep pushing maybe one day I will too. That's the dream.

We are lucky in this age of technology to be able to sit in the warm comfort of our own abodes and gather witness to the spectacle of such competition. Always inspired by athletes elite in their craft; I love seeing people consumed in the love of what they're doing, obvious passion driving their lifestyles. I think that's why so many people enjoy watching sports on TV. There are moments in Olympic unfolding captured only by tears and described only in shouts of jubilation. My personal memory of the 96 games here in Atlanta is one of the greatest national pride experiences of my life. There's nothing like going to such a large international event and having the host country be your own with chants of USA, USA echoing the arena.

This Tuesday my friends from the Shepherd Fencing Team will be arriving in Seville, Spain to compete internationally with the world's best wheelchair fencers. Most of them are Paralympic athletes and fully understand the experience of competing at such a high level. Tournaments are not just about having the body conditioned for battle, athletes must also be able to mentally handle the pressure and demands, of performing in front of so many others. The hours of training and early Saturday practice come to the fore-front in test against others from around the globe. Years of persistence will take form in points and matches won, advancement to medal rounds.

There's nothing like being in a frame distanced off from another competitor about to fling a sword at you in any amount of ways, with only trained instinct between you and their blow. Fencing satisfies that part of me that used to spend hours in a dojo training with other freestyle martial artists. Having had previous years of experience and a particular affection for combat, I was glad to get involved with the fencing team and again train like I once had. It allows me to push myself again to the point of exhaustion and feel the experience of physical exertion with others that have been pursuing achievement for years.

I find exercise and movement have been better relief for my body than the pills that doctors prescribe for stiff joints, pain, or arthritis. Since working out and becoming stronger, my pain level has decreased a hundred fold. Before joining the fencing team, I worked out but it was never on a serious note or for any particular reason. After joining I knew there would be no way to do the sport at my level of injury without weight training. So now fencing and working out have become as regular to me as writing.

Though we have disabilities we are not barred from lives active in sport. There are many things out there that people with low as well high-level disabilities can do that are not just good rehabilitation but fun to do. The Shepherd Center yearly has an adventures skill workshop that showcases sports to people of all sort, ages, types, and levels of injury. For a week or so they get together to explore opportunities in many types of different things to do. Mobility needs vary, but there are things to do for those even with no movement at all.

Some degree of sport or exercise should if possible be incorporated into everybody's life. Movement and activity are important to the overall health of being. With newer and newer technologies most sports can be adapted for people of all levels and types of disabilities. With a little creative thought accessibility can always be achieved. For some there are more options, but if you don't have many, what's important is making use of the options you have. Take it from someone who can't push himself up from a lying position you do what you can.