Paralyzed Veterans of America is teaming up with Wheelchair Lacrosse USA to educate chapter-level directors on the sport in hopes of expanding wheelchair lacrosse teams to every major city in the United States.
The groups will convene a two-day wheelchair lacrosse clinic in Las Vegas May 14-15, 2014, for Paralyzed Veterans' chapter-level directors to learn more about the sport, from ball handing to wheelchair mobility. The hope is to pique the interest of chapter-level directors to establish lacrosse teams within their chapters and communities to compete on the national level.
Erin Green, a consultant in the sports department of Paralyzed Veterans of America, said she began working in spring 2013 with Wheelchair Lacrosse USA Founders Ryan Baker and Bill Lundstrom on the possibility of offering wheelchair lacrosse clinics to Paralyzed Veterans of America members.
“I believe the sport has the opportunity to grow and become very popular eventually, growing into a national or even an international sport, therefore helping Ryan’s dream of it becoming a Paralympic sport one day,” Green said.
For Baker and Lundstrom, the goal in establishing the rules of the sport was to keep it as close as possible to its able-bodied counterpart. The wheelchair version makes only a few modifications – from being played on a hockey rink versus a field to using a no-bounce ball – but all of the rules for the game remain the same.
“Wheelchair lacrosse still calls for its players to swing sticks and check each other all for one reason – to get the ball away from their opponent,” Green said. “After watching them for a while you can see where having a team and practicing with a team regularly will help tremendously with keeping the game rolling and moving at a fast pace.”
Depending on how chapter-level directors respond to the May clinic, the groups hope to host a second wheelchair lacrosse clinic on the east coast this fall. The goal is to establish chapter teams across the country to compete in round robin tournaments and an overall tournament each year, Green said.
Baker, who has currently established teams in seven major cities, hopes to create 15 teams over the next two years. Ultimately, he hopes to gain enough interest in wheelchair lacrosse that it eventually becomes a recognized sport at the Paralympic games.
Currently, interest is growing in creating a team in the Washington, DC, area to compete against other wheelchair lacrosse teams in Baltimore, Richmond, and Ocean City. If you would like to be a part of a DC area team, please contact Erin Green (contact information below). Of note, you do not need to be paralyzed to play, you just need to be willing to play in a wheelchair (non-disabled players will be taught the needed wheelchair skills).
There is also a possibility of doing a wheelchair lacrosse exhibition or demo at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, though for planning purposes, that’s not likely to happen for at least two years, Green said.
“Our goal for now is to gain interest among the younger, newly injured veterans and bring them into the sports programs,” Green said.
For more information, contact Erin Green at email@example.com or 321-946-2085.
Learn more about adaptive sports opportunities from Paralyzed Veterans of America
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.