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Aggie Adaptive Sports expands athletic norms

Group to hold basketball game Saturday

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 23:02

Destroying the notion that sports can’t be played sitting down, Aggie Adaptive Sports provides an opportunity for disabled students to play and compete in the sports they love.

Aggie Adaptive Sports will host its first event of the semester Friday, a wheelchair basketball game from 5-8 p.m. at the Student Recreation Center. Games of wheelchair soccer, wheelchair football and wheelchair softball are also scheduled for this semester.

Former student Rejy Bacchus, who founded Aggie Adaptive Sports last semester, said he first intended for the program to benefit veterans but soon realized it should extend its reach further.

“We started gearing it toward veterans, especially veterans who are coming back with [post-traumatic stress disorder] and different disabilities as a way that they can reintegrate back into society, but also [to] have a great time and find that camaraderie again,” Bacchus said. “We realized that it would be better if we incorporated all of the A&M student body instead of just veterans so now its geared toward everybody.”

Elliott Schwartz, president of Aggie Adaptive Sports and junior psychology major, said Aggie Adaptive Sports would organize sporting events the community asked for.

“We’ll go to outside sources to bring funding in so we can go forward to host all of these events,” Schwartz said. “We want the organization to tell us what events they want and then we’ll put them on and they can just enjoy.”

Schwartz turned his attention to helping veterans after seeing his brother suffer from PTSD, even changing his major in the process.

“After going through multiple tragic events, it kind of changed the way I looked at everything,” Schwartz said. “I switched from being a business major to being a psychology major and wanting to help. It definitely propelled me in a different direction, and that’s why I’m so involved with veterans now.”

Bacchus said the social support offered to veterans through programs such as Aggie Adaptive Sports is essential to handling the physical and emotional aftermath of war.

“One of the big issues, especially with PTSD, is severe depression and a lot of isolation,” Bacchus said. “If we can get a lot of the veterans coming back to get out and try something, even if it’s just once, a lot of the times it will catch on and they’ll continue to go. If not for the sport itself, from the related benefits, the friendships that are made, the camaraderie and the competition.”

Autumn McKenzie, veteran and senior marketing major, said the importance of social support for student veterans is even more important as they are not conventional college students.

“If you’re a veteran you kind of feel a little bit left out, you have a different experience than just normal college kids who are coming out of high school, so we want to give an opportunity for veterans to come in and be with other veterans,” McKenzie said.

Although adaptive sports are generally for the disabled, McKenzie said there is also room for the nondisabled to participate.

“If you’re not disabled and you want to play, that’s cool too, but basically we just put you in a wheelchair and you just play like everybody else does,” McKenzie said. “There are straps to lock your feet down so you’re not tempted to use them, there’s a seatbelt for the wheelchair so it’s easier to fit in and you’re not tempted to stand up.”

Bacchus said he wants Aggie Adaptive Sports to be involved with Bryan-College Station as well.

“You don’t have to be a student at Texas A&M University to be involved, we want anybody and everybody to participate,” Bacchus said.

Bacchus said through efforts such as creating wheelchair sports teams that compete regularly in the Rec and partnering with adaptive sports programs in other cities, Aggie Adaptive Sports will establish itself for the long run.

“We’re taking these small steps that hopefully will create a long-time timetable for success,” Bacchus said. “We want to build relationships that last for a lifetime and we really, really want this to be something that has an impact on lives for years to come.”

 

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