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Adapted sports at the Israel Maccabi Games 2022
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a group of wheelchair basketball players pose on their court
The sport and development sector needs to ensure that it is inclusive of people with disabilities, so that the playing field is levelled.

I’ve developed a strong passion for creating and developing adapted sport opportunities. No matter one’s abilities, playing sport enables participants to be healthy physically, socially, and emotionally. We all learn life lessons especially from playing team sports. Adapted sport opportunities levels the playing field and helps to provide a vehicle for creating further societal inclusion.

I’ve been on the adapted sports path since I was a VSO volunteer in India in 2009, working for the Government of India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Through this experience and then after in Nepal, I used my love of basketball to learn how to play and coach wheelchair basketball and numerous other adapted sports.

Since then, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked for a collegiate adapted sport program at the University of Arizona and two adapted sport organizations. I have also co-founded two adapted sport organizations in the US: Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports in Tucson, Arizona in 2017, and most recently SoCal Adaptive Sports in 2020 in Riverside County, California, where I’m currently the Executive Director. This brought me to becoming the coach of a combined US/Great Britain/Israeli wheelchair basketball team for the 21st Maccabiah Games in Israel in July 2022.

The Maccabiah Games (a.k.a. the World Maccabiah Games; sometimes referred to as the "Jewish Olympics"), first held in 1932, are an international Jewish and Israeli multi-sport event now held quadrennially in Israel. The Maccabiah Games are open to Jewish athletes from around the world, and to all Israeli citizens regardless of their religion. It is the third-largest sporting event in the world by number of competitors, with 10,000 athletes competing (after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup). The Maccabiah Games were declared a "Regional Sports Event" by, and under the auspices and supervision of, the International Olympic Committee in 1961. (Maccabiah World Union)

The combined team earned a silver medal playing against three Israeli teams and had a segment on ESPN when in the third game of competition with seven seconds left and our team down by two, an Israeli on the opposing team missed a free throw which we rebounded and then passed to one of the Israelis on our team and with time expiring made a half-court shot!

Besides wheelchair basketball, there was also para-swimming. These were the only two adapted sport competitions at the games. There were more than 10,000 athletes at the Games with less than 50 being para-athletes. More needs to be done to have additional adapted sports and multi-country para-athletes at the 2025 Maccabi Games. It is important that every athlete can participate, to level the playing field.

Everybody should have the opportunity to be healthy – physically, emotionally, and socially.  Playing sport provides these types of opportunities.  Everyone has the ability to play sport, but governments, sport federations and NGOs need to make adapted sports a greater priority.  Governments can provide funding not only for elite para-athletes, but also for recreational athletes. This involves collaborating on a much larger level to create opportunities.

Recruiting para-athletes is often difficult, but by connecting with rehab and other facilities and providing information, NGOs can make these connections. Ensuring that people with disabilities are engaged offers them the opportunity to be fully involved in society. Providing job training and jobs, not sheltered workshops, is another way to help people with disabilities to be fully functioning members of society. Transportation is another component that needs to be considered, in assisting people with disabilities to be fully integrated into society. This is really about ability, or as a former CEO of the National Trust used to say, dis(cover)ability.

One of my roles with SoCal Adaptive Sports is to provide information to other organizations, including municipalities. Recently, as others become more aware of SoCal Adaptive Sports, I’ve had inquiries from municipalities throughout southern California that are interested in starting and/or further developing programs. This gives me hope for expanding adapted sports as all citizens should be served through equal opportunities to participate. Accessibility is a key component of this and having programs throughout southern California will break down the transportation barrier which so many people with disability face on a regular basis.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been a major player in expanding adapted sports throughout the world, focusing primarily on wheelchair basketball. Local NGOs such as ENGAGE Nepal are providing opportunities for athletes to play, and the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India formed due to the efforts of local advocates.

Sport NGOs throughout the world, including in the US, can add adapted component(s), thereby creating opportunities to play for athletes with a disability and further societal inclusion, a social justice issue.

SoCal Adaptive Sports is ready to help you to provide more opportunities for athletes and help your organization to grow. Please contact me at [email protected] for further information.

Authors

Tags

Country
Israel
Region
Middle East
Sport
Basketball
Sustainable Development Goals
10 – Reduced inequalities
Themes
Target Group
People with Disabilities

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