Over this past weekend, after hosting a successful first fall event, James Madison University hosted the first spring Adapted Sports Day. JMU Athletics hosted the 19-member group at the women’s basketball game Friday night, and on Saturday the participants took part in multiple activities, some with the help of the JMU women’s volleyball team.
“After attending in the fall and having such a wonderful experience, we were not going to miss this event,” stated Lawana Harper, mother of Ben, as did many of the repeat attenders. “Ben was extremely excited because he would be able to see his past mentor, Kevin Wells, and learn the skills of new sports from student athletes.”
The event, planned by Professors Josh Pate and Thomas Moran, welcomed middle school through college-eligible participants with disabilities to enter a college campus, experience a collegiate athletics competition and learn the sports of volleyball and basketball in adapted ways.
After witnessing an exciting win for women’s basketball over Northeastern Friday night, the participants awoke early in anticipation for the fun, activity-filled Saturday. Upon arrival on campus, they were greeted by volunteers from Overcoming Barriers as well as the women’s volleyball team and then were quickly thrown into the events of the day.
The morning consisted of stations conducted by both volleyball players and volunteers to teach volleyball and basketball skills. The skills helped to give the participants alternate ways to practice and play their sports while also preparing them for the afternoon events.
“It is really moving to see these kids have such a passion for sports even though it may be more difficult for them to participate,” stated junior volleyball player, Lizzy Briones, “I am glad we can help be a part of their learning.
The intense morning of learning concluded with brunch at E-Hall in preparation for the afternoon events. Upon their return to the gym, the participants witnessed a demonstration from the Charlottesville Cardinals wheelchair basketball team as well as a demonstration that included JMU students playing wheelchair basketball with the Cardinals.
To conclude the day, the participants played both a game of volleyball and basketball using the skills they had learned that morning. Volleyball team members and volunteers joined in the games with the participants creating an enjoyable atmosphere of play. Across all games, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, short-sided volleyball and basketball, all involved, even spectators, had smiling faces to end their long weekend.
“It’s truly beyond just the sport activity,” emphasizes Harper. “The participants are able to see role models in Drs. Pate and Moran and interact with college students and athletes in a college environment and they are truly inspired that maybe they can enter college and participate in their sports.”