CYSS, others help shine light on adaptive sports

by Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Sports Editor
June 28, 2012

Fort Hood’s Child, Youth and School Services, in conjunction with other local organizations, hosted its third annual Paralympic Experience June 21 at the Abrams Physical Fitness Center.

Upward of 300 of Fort Hood’s youth, including Family members and Soldiers, streamed into the gym around lunchtime greeted by a wheelchair basketball game between the visiting Movin’ Mavs out of the University of Texas at Arlington and the hometown Harker Heights Hustlers, part of the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation adaptive sports program.

The Movin’ Mavs held on to win late, but not without a scare after Michael Banks of the Hustlers netted a 3-pointer to cut a six-point deficit in half with less than 30 seconds remaining.

In the afternoon, some of the athletes, Movin’ Mavs coaches and representatives from the U.S. Tennis Association joined in running stations to demonstrate to the able-bodied youth the different adaptive sports available, including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, wheelchair tennis and others.

Kristine Fernandez, the CYSS director, said the biggest take-away was showing the different opportunities available to athletes with disabilities.

“You don’t have to be limited to one type of sport as an adaptive athlete,” she said. “There’s a vast range of options. And that’s what the goal is; it’s to keep growing with this program and show them all of the different sports that are there for them.”

Each station detailed the basic rules of the sport and some of the fundamental movements.

At one station, Anthony Pone and Ian Pierson, both players on the Movin’ Mavs, shared their stories during a question-and-answer session.

During the session, Pone explained how he was hesitant to take up the sport of wheelchair basketball following a car accident, which resulted in the loss of his leg.

“At first I didn’t know what I was going to say to them,” Pone said afterward. Pone went with the honest truth, and said it was actually relieving. “It felt good to interact with the kids and tell them my story.”

Pone said that by sharing how he dealt with the adversity in his life, it was relatable to any challenges the kids could be facing in their own life.

“It’s better to deal with it than sulk in your feelings,” he said of challenges.

Joe Brown, the recreation superintendent for the city of Harker Heights, who started the city’s adaptive sports program in 2010, said days like this help his program grow.

“It’s all about awareness now,” he said. “We’re just trying to find individuals – whether they’re veterans, active-duty or civilians – with disabilities so we can plug them into the opportunities to recreate. It started off with basketball, but we have high plans and hopes for the program.”

“Every year, we’re just trying to get more exposure about the adaptive sports programs and bring exposure to the Fort Hood community that there are options in this area for adaptive sports,” Fernandez said. “You don’t have to go anywhere crazy to get adaptive sports; it’s being offered right here in Central Texas.

“The goal’s to open the event up to everyone so that everyone knows what adaptive sports are,” she added. “It can become a team effort.”