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Adaptive sports and development

Copyrights: Palms to Pines Parasports

Adaptive sports and development

Palms to Pines Parasports (PPP), in Riverside County, California, aims to create a more inclusive society by providing competitive and recreational opportunities for people with physical disabilities, while instilling a lifelong passion for wellness and helping athletes realize their full potential.

Inclusion is an issue that development organizations throughout the world regularly integrate into their programs. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly include disability and persons with disabilities 11 times. Disability is referenced in multiple parts of the SDGs, specifically in the parts related to education, growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, as well as data collection and the monitoring of the SDGs.

In April 2020 a number of friends and I created Palms to Pines Parasports (PPP), serving Riverside County, California. We officially launched in October. The purpose of this organization is to create a more inclusive society by providing competitive and recreational opportunities for people with physical disabilities, while instilling a lifelong passion for wellness and helping athletes realize their full potential. We envision a world in which adaptive athletes have the same opportunities to lead as full a life as their able-bodied peers.

In developing PPP there were a number of priority issues. First was having a diverse board with a number of the members being people with physical disabilities, i.e. athletes who would also be participating in programs. This was vital as we took to heart the phrase “nothing about us, without us.”

We also understood that we needed to collaborate with the Desert Recreation District (DRD), through their adaptive program, and the City of Riverside Parks and Recreation Department.  Both of these organizations have the infrastructure (gyms, fields, sport chairs, etc.) and venues which can help create greater awareness about opportunities to participate in adaptive sports. 

We realize that we have a number of challenges, including recruiting athletes to participate, sustainability, and lack of public awareness about adaptive sports. We know through due diligence in developing our business plan that there are many persons with disability living in Riverside County that are not actively participating in sport opportunities. Part of this has to do with the dearth of opportunities available, but also with getting people out of their homes, especially after an accident. In order to meet this challenge, we are developing relationships with hospitals, doctors, and rehab facilities.

Sustainability is a challenge for all non-profit organizations. As a new non-profit, we will be applying for grants, but we also understand the need to develop relationships with business and individuals who will enable PPP to grow.

The Paralympic movement has helped to raise awareness of adaptive sports and the capabilities of persons with disability. But it really comes down to the number of local organizations offering opportunities.  Ultimately, it’s about getting people active in recreational sports.

A glimpse of the global landscape on sport and disability organizations

I’ve been on the adaptive sports path since I was a volunteer in India from 2009-12. This continued when I lived in Nepal from 2012-16 and when I returned to the US. I’ve been fortunate to have lived in India and Nepal. In both countries, I spent time learning about wheelchair basketball and becoming a wheelchair basketball coach.

The Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) has done a phenomenal job of developing the game in a relatively short period of time. In Nepal, ENGAGE and the Nepal Spinal Cord Injury Sports Association (NSCISA), as well as other groups, have developed basketball and other sports.

I was in Nepal one year ago with a terrific Canadian wheelchair basketball coach, Paul Bowes, conducting a program through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Jess Markt, who heads the ICRC, program has really made a huge difference in terms of providing opportunities throughout the world for people with disability to play.

During this time of a global pandemic, many programs are on hold. But the type of programming that the ICRC offers provides hope for many to participate in societies where people with disability have little access.

Another incredible program has been conducted through the State Department and the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace and Society, in which people with disability are provided with an opportunity to work on a project in the US, and then bring this back to their home country for implementation.

Based on my experience, inclusion in sport is optimal for developing greater access for persons with disability to lead a full life. Opportunities for inclusion occur on a daily basis. Through Palms to Pines Parasports, we are part of the movement to remove barriers, create greater awareness about the capabilities of persons with disabilities, and provide opportunities to play.

For further information about Palms to Pines Parasports please go to www.palmstopinesparasports.org.

Michael J. Rosenkratz is the President of the Board of Palm to Pines Parasports.

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Monday, November 23, 2020 - 15:52

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