Good Sports: Wheelchair Basketball

October 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's a Saturday afternoon in Fresno, this church gymnasium would usually have able bodied athletes practicing or playing games. But not with Children's Hospital Central California bringing Audie Kemp to town.

"I like sports because it's just an outreach to get away from everyday life, burn off some stress, and it's an equal playing field," said Audie Kemp, a professional wheelchair basketball player and coach with the Rehab Hospital of Indiana Pacers team.

The Indiana resident has been playing wheelchair basketball for more than 25 years, reaching the Paralympic games for Team USA. His message to the CHCC Adaptive Sports program is simple, yet powerful.

"It's just to make sure that these kids have success" said Kemp. "And that's what it's about. So I can teach a kid that can't raise his arms above his shoulders that he's as important as the guy that hits the three point shot. Because without one the other one doesn't succeed."

"When you come in here it's like your own separate world," said Jos? Gomez, an Adaptive Sports athlete. "If you have problems or something or whatever you're going through, you just come here and put that all aside and just let it all out."

Passing then moving, shooting then defending, It's not nearly as easy as Kemp makes it look. But they players don't mind. They know it's not only a physical workout, it's a mental challenge too.

"You have to be able to multi task it all into one because if you don't, then it will be real difficult" said Gomez. "It's a challenge. When you first try it you'll feel it in your forearms and all that. It's a workout, yeah."

These athletes may be confined to wheelchairs, but their enthusiasm and the camaraderie the game creates can't be contained by this gym.

"Most kids will do, especially after an injury or something, they'll shut themselves away from the world," said Gomez. "But there's more to it. You can look around and when you find the program, then you'll see it's a lot of fun."

And that's mission accomplished for Adaptive Sports Director Dr. Jen Crocker, who's constantly looking for new opportunities for her athletes.

"It's not just psychologically uplifting, it's physically helpful and emotionally and socially as well," said Crocker. "So it's been one of the greatest things we've been able to do in the Central Valley."

"They all saw something they couldn't do, or didn't think they could do, but now they realize they can," said Kemp. "And that's what this offers. Just giving them that opportunity."


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