Having a disability is hard enough. But, what if you have a disability AND love sports? What if your disability prevents you from participating in local sports? What then?
Unfortunately, most traditional sports leagues/teams/clubs are not very ‘disability friendly’. However, there are options!
1. Special Olympics: http://www.specialolympics.org/
Most cities, and even small towns, have a Special Olympics team. This offers an opportunity for athletes who are severely disabled to participate and compete. Each region has different sports that they offer. Softball, bowling, basketball and track/field are just a few. If the athlete does well at their local/regional meet, they can advance to their designated state meet!
The only downside is that Special Olympics is primarily designed for athletes with mental disabilities. So, what if your child’s or loved one’s disability is only physical? Then, Option 2 may be the answer!
2. Paralympics: https://www.paralympic.org/
In contrast to Special Olympics, Paralympics is designated for athletes with physical disabilities. Most large cities will have a Paralympic team. However, smaller towns may not. Do not get discouraged! Just because your town may not have an actual team does not mean that your child cannot participate. It may take some research on your part, but you can find information on the different sports that your athlete may be interested in, as well as area, regional and state competitions. Like Special Olympics, Paralympics has many different sports. A few examples are archery, track/field, power lifting and swimming. Again, if an athlete does well enough at a qualifying meet, he/she can advance to Nationals. Once the athlete turns 14, they can even advance from Nationals to Worlds!
Many states are becoming more embracing of our athletes with disabilites. For example, in Texas, they can compete at high school track meets and can even advance to the state track meet!
3. 4-H: http://4-h.org/
4-H is an amazing program that is very welcoming of all disabilities. Youth can participate in anything from shooting sports to livestock showing to fashion/design, regardless of their disability. There is something for everyone in 4-H!
Photo Source: My husband took this picture of our son competing in Archery at the Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals this summer.