Being involved in the world of sports can be a fulfilling lifestyle. Through dedication and hard work, many athletes learn discipline, the importance of a work ethic, and teamwork. For individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI), it may seem like shooting hoops or hitting home runs is out of reach. This could not be further from the truth!
SRALab’s Adaptive Sports Program offers youths and adults with a physical disability a variety of year-round sports and recreation opportunities such as sled hockey, hand cycling, wheelchair rugby, golf, and basketball. One of the more popular sports is wheelchair basketball. In partnership with the Chicago Park District, SRALab has organized several teams that compete nationwide in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. The wheelchair basketball program is open to all individuals with lower body physical impairment. A common misconception is that you have to be a wheelchair user to participate, but this is not true. Teams travel all over the country to compete against some of the top teams in the nation.
Chicago Skyhawks (NCAA Division 3): Meet Wednesdays & Fridays from 6:00 - 9:00 pm at Jesse White Community Center (410-412 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago IL 60610).
SRALab Hornets: meet September – April on Tuesdays 6:00 - 9:00 pm at S.J. Gregory Auditorium (5649 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, IL 60660).
- Junior prep: Ages 6-13 years old
- 10 foot team: Ages 13-21 years old or enrolled in high school
- Meet to practice on Saturdays from 9:00am - Noon at Rainbow Beach Park (3111 E. 77th St., Chicago 60649)
We caught up with the head coach of the junior prep team and sports coordinator for SRALab, Mark Schultz, to hear about his experience coaching and advice for people with SCI who are seeking athletic opportunities.
Q: How did you get your start coaching SRALab’s Wheelchair Basketball Program?
A:Through my previous work in special recreation, working with people who have cognitive impairments, I was introduced to adaptive sports. I was looking for a change and really enjoyed working with athletes with physical impairments, so when the opportunity to coach at SRALab came up, I did not hesitate.
Q: What has been your best experience as a coach?
A: As a coach, I just like seeing our players enjoying new experiences. We get to travel all around the nation and for some of our players, it is their first time travelling since their injury. I remember one of our junior players came up to me in excitement because we were driving to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a tournament. To me we were just travelling to Fort Wayne, but for him, it was his first time ever leaving Chicago and to provide that opportunity was a great feeling.
Q: Has being a part of the team resulted in any significant benefits for your players?
A: I think the biggest benefit for most of our players is the ability to get involved in a community. Living with a spinal cord injury you are constantly thinking “what do I do now”. The family environment and close bonds that you form joining SRALab basketball really helps our players to see that they are not alone. Playing, travelling, and practicing with teammates who share your story is pretty much invaluable as a player and coach.
Q: What improvements would you make to the program?
A: There is always room for growth. I know there are so many more athletes out there for us to reach and we are developing ways to expand throughout Chicago. Eventually we would like to have our own SRALab basketball league.
For more information about Junior SRALab Wheelchair Basketball, contact Junior Head Coach, Mark Schultz at email@example.com or (312)-238-5011
For more information about Adult SRALab Wheelchair Basketball, contact Manager of Sports and Recreation, Derek Daniels at (312)238-5001
To learn more about all of the adaptive sport programs that SRALab has to offer, please visit our website.