The Impact of Inclusive Sports
Eleven-year-old Jack zooms across the court, beaming as he catches a pass from his 14-year-old brother, Ben. Once a week Jack and Ben play basketball together, thanks to Coach Doug Dumas from the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, who started the city’s wheelchair basketball league.
“Both kids get to play, when they usually don’t get to play together — it’s great to see,” Jack and Ben’s mom, Lori, shares.
The league invites able-bodied children and youth with disabilities to play on the same team. The park and recreation program ensures athletes have the right equipment, too, from wheelchairs specifically designed for sports to adjustable basketball hoops.
When you ask Jack what he likes about basketball, he has a simple answer: “it’s just fun, mom!”
Lori says that beyond having fun, basketball is great for Jack’s health. Since he started playing, he’s increased his overall arm strength and his speed in his wheelchair.
The Columbus, Ohio mom also describes how playing sports has built confidence and self-esteem not only in Jack, but in all the players on the team. She talks about one of her favorite memories, saying: “There was another little boy on our team, and he wasn’t really talking at all when we started the season. Now you hear him talking, calling for the ball, engaging with other kids. You know, that’s so important.”
Jack’s own confidence has soared since joining the team. He’s taken it upon himself to help kids who haven’t played before and leads drills. His brother, Ben, serves as a role model for Jack and other players.
There’s an overall sense of camaraderie on the team, as the players cheer each other on and build friendships. In addition to basketball, Jack has played tennis through the park and recreation league.
“These park and rec programs — well, they have given our kids opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Lori shares.
Park and recreation professionals’ goal is to serve the full community, making sure every community member has access to the programs and services they offer. As a parent who has experienced firsthand her local agency’s commitment to inclusion, Lori highly recommends park and recreation youth sports to other parents and caregivers.
From getting kids moving to building important bonds with one another, she believes these activities make a real, positive difference in our communities and for our kids – and that every child should give it a shot.