How to Get Started in Adaptive Sports

Adaptive sports offer the opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in sports with the proper modifications. But, why are they so important? Living an active lifestyle is essential for maintaining excellent mental and physical health. Many people who want to preserve their strength and wellness rely on sports or other dynamic activities to do so. Sports provide many benefits including:

8 Benefits of Playing Sports

  1. Improving one’s physical health
  2. Making friends by bonding with teammates
  3. Experiencing the thrill of competing
  4. Enjoying the outdoors
  5. Routinely engaging in a hobby
  6. Maintaining a positive mood
  7. Feeling included in the community
  8. Connecting with positive mentors

With the capability of vastly improving your life in a number of ways, why doesn’t everyone participate in sports? This is a great question. Unfortunately, sports are not always accessible to everyone—especially people with varying physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to find the right adaptive sports program or even know what kind of equipment to purchase in order to participate.

Traditional sports do not complement all abilities, often inadvertently denying access for everyone to enjoy. These roadblocks can prevent people with disabilities from taking part in cultivating a healthy lifestyle or reaping the benefits of sports. That’s why sports that adapt to these individuals’ needs and abilities are so important for their overall wellbeing. Keep reading to learn more about adaptive sports and how you can get started!

What are Adaptive Sports?

Adaptive sports are competitive or recreational sports for people with disabilities, often running parallel to traditional sports. What makes them different from typical sports is that they offer the modifications necessary for participants.

Examples of Adaptive Sports

  • Wheelchair sports, such as basketball or tennis, allow individuals who use a wheelchair to participate in a team sport with other wheelchair users.
  • Adaptive swimming can be modified to any individual’s disability, whether physical, mental, or intellectual.
  • Rock climbing is easily adapted to climbers with physical disabilities by offering a variety of adaptive gear and harnesses.
  • Adaptive archery is designed to allow participants to shoot a larger target from a shorter distance.
  • Skiing and snowboarding, with the help of sighted guides, can be enjoyed by the visually impaired.
  • Baseball, and other adaptive team sports, empower individuals with disabilities to play amongst teammates with similar abilities, as well as play against other adaptive sports teams.
  • Martial Arts can be adapted and taught to individuals with various intellectual disabilities. In fact, several instructors at Appleton ATA Black Belt Academy have autism!
  • Adaptive Biking allows people to purchase adaptive bikes that cater towards their personal needs.
  • And many more!

Studies show that adaptive sports provide less stress, more independence, and a higher achievement in education or employment for individuals with disabilities. Being able to partake in these activities can do wonders for people’s mental and physical health!

Adaptive Sports Equipment

Adaptive sports equipment varies for each individual, as well as each activity. Modifications look different for everyone. Some may require supplemental equipment or tools, while others may just need a helper by their side.

Examples of Adaptive Sports Equipment

  • Carbon fiber prosthetics can be worn by individuals with limb differences while practicing or competing. For example, runners with lower body amputations may use a running blade to run cross country.
  • Sensory soccer balls may be needed if the athlete is on the autism spectrum. These balls have 10 ounces of steel bearings, allowing the ball to remain in play.
  • Ringing volleyballs can be used by athletes with visual impairments or attention-deficit disorders. Loud bells are inserted inside of the ball, ensuring focus, involvement, and safety for everyone on the court.
  • Tappers are a great resource for swimmers who are visually impaired and are unable to see when they are approaching the end of the pool. In adaptive swimming, a person called a tapper has the responsibility of lightly tapping the swimmer when they are nearing the pool’s wall. This allows the swimmer to know exactly when to turn.

Identifying the right adaptive sports equipment for you is based on your abilities and a forecast of potential challenges. A coach, instructor, or volunteer buddy can be a great place to start regarding any questions or concerns.

Adaptive Sports Programs in Fox Valley

Northeastern Wisconsin has a plethora of adaptive sports programs that your loved one might really enjoy!

  • The Miracle League of Fox Valley in Appleton, Wisconsin allows children with cognitive and/or physical disabilities to play baseball on an accessible rubberized field alongside a volunteer buddy.
  • The University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh has an adapted physical education degree program that prepares students to design adaptive movement for people with disabilities. Students enrolled in this program learn behavior management, activity modification, motor assessment, medical aspects of disabling conditions, and more. This program also supports adaptive swim classes in the area!
  • Special Olympics in Fox Valley allows individuals with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to learn new physical skills and connect with a social circle of other adaptive athletes. Sports that are offered include bowling, golf, soccer, snowboarding, and more!
  • Inspire Sports, based in Kaukauna, Wisconsin provides opportunities for individuals with special needs to grow both physically and mentally. With one-on-one peer mentoring programs, athletes learn the fundamentals of sports in a fun, safe, and engaging environment, allowing them to overcome challenges along the way.

For more resources and information on adaptive sports in Northeastern Wisconsin, visit Walking and Wheeling. There’s something for everyone to knock out of the park!

Get Sporty at Covey: Game on!

Covey is a non-profit organization devoted to enriching the lives of individuals with disabilities, and we greatly value the importance of sports among our clients. We offer a variety of physical activities, giving our clients the opportunity to grow mentally, physically, and socially!

First time playing a sport? Welcome! Regardless of your prior experience or capabilities, everyone is invited to participate in our outings. Some of our offered activities include outdoor walking groups, bowling, adaptive swimming at the YMCA, ice skating, and more!

And be sure to check out our annual iCan Shine Bike Camp, where individuals (ages 8+) learn how to ride a bicycle over the course of five days. This is a life-changing experience for our clients to build confidence, gain independence, and develop a newfound freedom of riding a bike around the neighborhood. This camp unearths the sheer joy that stems from succeeding in a new skill.

Take a look at our event calendar to see what fun, accessible events are coming up. Get ready to get moving!