Choosing a College or University is a huge decision that ultimately impacts the rest of your life. That’s a difficult choice, even with so much information proudly displayed on the school’s admissions homepage. When the details of adaptive sports programs are buried so deeply they can seem impossible to find, it begins to feel overwhelming.
We think that adaptive sports programs are something that should be celebrated, and that’s why we want to take a minute to shine a light on Colleges and Universities across the country that proudly promote their adaptive sports programs.
Photo courtesy of Auburn University
Auburn University’s Office of Accessibility works in tandem with their School of Kinesiology to lead the adaptive sports movement on campus. Auburn University’s wheelchair basketball team competes nationally in the intercollegiate division of the NWBA. Students can also participate in wheelchair tennis, use accessible strength and cardio machines in the University weight room, and borrow handcycles for recreational use. The adapted sports program is also looking to create new opportunities on campus with a sitting volleyball team, power soccer, and wheelchair handball.
Photo courtesy of Ball State University's power soccer team's Facebook page.
Ball State University’s power soccer team was established in 2008, making it the first collegiate power soccer team in the United States. As a member of both the United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA) and Power Soccer of Indy (PSI) Ball State’s power soccer team competes against approximately 60 teams across the country. Ball State also offers students of all abilities the opportunity to participate in wheelchair basketball.
Photo courtesy of Edinboro University
Not only does Edinboro University have a men's and a women’s wheelchair basketball team, they also offer recreational sports and leisure activities for students of all abilities through their Adaptive Intramural and Recreational Sports (AIRS) programs. Activities vary based on student interest and frequently include swimming, bowling, exercise programs, and snow tubing. Interested in shooting an air rifle? The Edinboro University Police department can help with that: with the support of The Office for Students with Disabilities, they’ve established a group specifically for students interested in target shooting.
Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois women's wheelchair basketball team
The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign boasts a long history of wheelchair basketball for both men and women. Originally called The Gizz Kids -and founded at University of Illinois at Galesburg - the men’s wheelchair basketball team was the first collegiate team in the United States. The women’s team, originally called the “Ms Kids” was founded in 1970 and renamed the Fighting Illini. Since then, they’ve won 14 National Tournament Championships and hold the record for winning five consecutive national titles. Both the men’s and women’s teams offer individual skills summer camps for beginners as well as an invite-only elite camp for the top 24 junior athletes in world. The University of Illinois also offers competitive Wheelchair Track teams for men and women which have developed several eventual Paralympians.
Photo Credit: Ella Norgren Courtesy of IPFW
In addition to the Adaptodons, IPFW’s on campus Wheelchair Basketball, this past fall IPFW hosted an Adaptive Sports Day in order to “promote and reach out for new partnerships for club sports on campus.” This included demos on sitting volleyball from the IPFW women's volleyball team, who will host clinics throughout the year, rowing courtesy of the Glorious Gate Rowing Association, and curling courtesy of the Fort Wayne Curling Club
Photo Courtesy of Ohio State
Though Ohio State doesn’t currently have any intercollegiate adaptive sports teams, they do offer a wide variety of adapted programs included aquatics, fitness classes, intramural sports, outdoor adventure (canoeing/kayaking/hiking/backpacking), indoor climbing, and personal training with individualized one on one instruction.
Photo courtesy of Oregon State University's Wheelchair Basketball Club
Oregon State University has made it a point to support and develop their club wheelchair basketball program over the past half decade, and they’ve even received past grants from the Dana Reeve Foundation in order to support their program. According to the team’s Facebook page, OSU provides opportunities for students to play basketball weekly, as well as in tournaments and other special events… (and) hope to incorporate more adaptive sports for students at OSU.
Photo Credit: Craig Houtz courtesy of Penn State
Penn State offers a wide variety of Ability Athletics and Adaptive Club Activities including weekly wheelchair basketball games, Run, Walk & Roll races, seated volleyball, adapted soccer, Paralympic experience events, sled hockey, and more. Additionally, the University hosts quite a few Wounded Warrior events throughout the year including a Vets Festival and exhibition events in various categories like Volleyball and Swimming.
Photo courtesy of Portland State University
Portland State has truly embraced adapted sports - they offer many different types of activities through their Inclusive Recreation program, including an overnight ski trip to Bend, Oregon, 3v3 wheelchair basketball tournaments, adaptive climbing, adaptive swim, goalball, and a gym that offers adaptive weight room circuit training with four inclusive fitness initiative approved selectorized machines, a wide weight bench, elevated mats, and a krank bike for upper cardio. Another awesome program at Portland State is “Fresh Friday” - a time to “introduce members to a variety of new inclusive sports or activities.”
Photo courtesy of Southwest Minnesota State
Southwest Minnesota State University’s wheelchair basketball team is another member of the intercollegiate league, and (rightfully) has it’s own page on SMSU’s official athletics page. The team’s head coach, Derek Klinker, is in his fourth season on the SMSU coaching staff and was a member of the SMSU football program during his own college years. SMSU’s exercise science department works with the Wheelchair Basketball team often and offers a bi-weekly physical therapy clinic that includes occupational, chiropractic, and physical therapies.
Photo courtesy of Aggie Adaptive Sports
The Aggie Adaptive Sports program at Texas A&M includes wheelchair basketball, wheelchair football, wheelchair soccer, beep baseball, and sitting volleyball. In September of 2015 Aggie Adaptive also facilitated additional opportunities to take part in adaptive crossfit so that students of any ability could maximize activeness.
Photo courtesy of disabledadventures.com
In addition to wheelchair basketball, UCLA has an adaptive cycling program, adaptive tennis, warm water activites, and a program called SOAR or Saturday Opportunities for Adaptive Recreation which is designed for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities that include (but are not limited to) Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Bifida, Spinal Cord Injury, Muscular Dystrophy and more. The program is designed for teens and young adults and introduces participants to a new sport or activity each week which has previously included kayaking, handcycling, hiking, rock climbing, sailing excursions, skiing, and snowboarding.
Proudly promoting the adaptive sports program as “the largest and most successful of its kind, the University of Arizona Adaptive Athletics Program houses six competitive teams and a dedicated adaptive fitness center. Over 40 years, this program has sent 27 athletes to the Paralympics and won a number of national titles. Teams include men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball, quad rugby, tennis, track and road racing, and hand-cycling.
Photo courtesy of the University of Missouri
Not only does the University of Missouri host an intercollegiate wheelchair basketball team, they also offer a private team-fitness room with state of the art facilities for weight training and conditioning. The Mizzou Wheelchair Basketball Team Fitness Center “offers players a private workout area complete with ergometers and weightlifting equipment.
For more information contact: Ron Lykins
Photo courtesy of the University of Texas @ Arlington
UT Arlington Movin’ Mavs takes its men’s and women’s basketball teams seriously: their teams have won seven national championships, and players are consistently named to First-Team All-American squads and participating in the Paralympics. For motivated student athletes in need of funding, UT Arlington offers a scholarship from the Craig T Neilsen Foundation for students with a Spinal Cord Injury.
Wheelchair basketball isn’t the only option for adaptive athletics, either: the University also offers wheelchair tennis, cycling, fitness, track & field, swimming, table tennis, and bocce ball.
Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin - Whitewater has had a wheelchair athletics program since 1973 and includes both men’s and women’s intercollegiate wheelchair basketball teams which have both fostered many past, present, and future Paralympic athletes and coaches.
In addition to intercollegiate adaptive athletics, UW-Whitewater provides opportunities to all disabled students through a intramural wheelchair basketball and football. Adaptive facilities include a weight room, basketball chairs, handcycles, a multipurpose gym, and more.
Photo courtesy of Wright State Unversity
Wright State’s Adapted Recreation Program “provides competitive and recreational opportunities for students, faculty, staff and alumni” and includes adapted aquatics, intramural football, soccer, basketball, and baseball, outdoor recreation like kayaking, skiing, and climbing, special events, and a workout buddy program that allows students with disabilities to try new sports and exercise with the assistance of a buddy to increase efficiency and enjoyment.
Editor's Note: thank you to our readers for filling us in on the adaptive sports programs below!
Photo courtesy of the Alabama Adapted Facebook page
University of Alabama takes their athletics programs - including adapted athletics - seriously, and it shows: the program has racked up six National Championships since 2009. in addition to their thriving wheelchair basketball and tennis teams, they are currently in the process of developing adapted rowing and wheelchair track.
For more information call: 205-348-5109
Photo courtesy of TeamUSA.org
Northeast Passage is a program that operates out of the University of New Hampshire with the goal of "creating an environment where individuals with disabilities can enjoy recreation with the same freedom of choice, quality of life, and independence as their peers."
In addition to competitive sled hockey, quad rugby, and power soccer teams, Northeast Passage also offers a wide variety of recreational sports including archery, court sports/Paralympic bocci, cycling, golf, hiking, nordic skiing, paddling, water skiing, and shooting sports. Ready to try something new? An "explore clinic" offers additional opportunities to try new things like self defense, fencing, and yoga.
Photo courtesy of MichiganVictoryGames.com
Michigan State offers a wide range of adaptive recreational opportunities including adapted fitness centers, swimming, goalball, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair floor hockey and open recreation. MSU also has an Adaptive Sports Club, which practices events that include Boccia Ball, Wheelchair Slalom, Track, and Field Events (discus throw, club throw, shot put, javelin, long jump), Hand Cycling, and Table Tennis.
The University of Central Florida has a thriving adaptive and inclusive recreation department that includes Wheelchair Basketball. Goalball, swim lessons, and a student assisted workout program, but there's no doubt that the coolest and most unique aspect of their program is their adaptive climbing program. Special equipment, called the HAUL system, uses "pulleys, a special seat harness with strapping and padding, and handlebar-style 'ascenders'...to allow for a four-to-one mechanical advantage."